This Kiwi creative is bringing a fresh flavour to the Los Angeles floral scene by selling rustic bouquets from a converted van and delivering picture-perfect arrangements to people’s doors
Meet the unlikely Kiwi bringing fresh flowers to Los Angeles
Kiwi actor-turned-florist Spencer Falls may have been based in Los Angeles for 10 years now, but his New Zealand identity still shines through – he runs his business The Unlikely Florist from a converted Volkswagen van. The van, nicknamed Untho, can be found outside LA hotspots on weekends, kitted out by Spencer with racks to hold bouquets and buckets of flowers. Steering away from traditionally ‘pretty’ flowers, Spencer favours protea, banksia and eucalyptus – flowers that will be robust enough to survive life in the van. With his Instagram-friendly shopfront, rustic, unconventional bouquets and laidback charm, Spencer has quickly gained a cult following both in his adopted city and online.
The idea for The Unlikely Florist started as a joke – a back-up plan in case acting didn’t work out. When Spencer was back in LA after a year spent acting on Shortland Street (in 2014), unemployed and unfulfilled, he decided to take the plunge. “As actors we jump between this restaurant job and that restaurant job and eventually I got tired of it, so I decided to start selling flowers out of my van as I was waiting for my next acting job,” he explains. “One thing led to another and flowers kind of took precedence over acting.”
Spencer took the phrase ‘learning on the job’ literally. He had no experience with floristry but grew up on an orchard, so knew his way around a pair of secateurs. “Cutting, pruning and thinning was part of my childhood,” he says. Spencer sees floristry as just another extension of his creativity, a viewpoint in part inspired by his mother. “She was creative in so many mediums in my life, so I learned that creativity, being an artist or expressing yourself through a creative medium, doesn’t have to be linear.”
Made in Venice
Spencer credits living in LA, particularly in the creative hub of Venice, as integral to his success. “I live in a pretty unique part of Los Angeles,” he says. “LA itself is just an unreal place where you can do absolutely anything you can conceive of.”
Only two years on from launching his business, the florist is working with companies such as shoe brand Toms and accommodation marketplace Airbnb. He even created florals for the cover of Vogue India, and had to ensure cover star Kim Kardashian didn’t fall through his floral wall on the photoshoot. Opportunities like this just present themselves in the City of Angels, Spencer says. His 186-square-metre warehouse-style studio in Venice has proved a handy place to meet influential creatives. He also holds events, such as jazz nights in collaboration with Airbnb, at the studio. “We’ve spent a lot of time and money investing in the studio to make it a beautiful space that we can share with the community,” Spencer says.
It’s that community which drew him to the beachside area – it’s the closest he can find to home in LA. “I want to live in New Zealand but I can’t right now, so I want to feel that sense of community that’s so important to me here.” While he appreciates the creative opportunities that LA offers, Spencer misses home. He hopes to expand the business back to New Zealand one day, but for now is happy to be returning here in the summer, where he will be available for weddings in January and February 2019.
Door to door service
As well as selling flowers from the van, Spencer does a lot of arrangements for weddings and events, from dinner parties to red-carpet affairs. “I’ve never been a traditional florist,” he says. “Selling from the van is just one part of the business.” Currently he is “most passionate” about his new delivery service. Not only do customers receive weekly, bi-weekly or monthly arrangements, but their old flowers can be taken away and repurposed into a dried, framed artwork.
“We’re trying to create a system where we’re reusing flowers as much as we can,” Spencer says. He also gives a percentage of the sales of both the arrangements and artworks to the grower. Having grown up on an orchard in Hawke’s Bay, he is aware of the struggles that come with being a farmer. “We’re conscious that if it weren’t for the grower we wouldn’t have this business and the customer wouldn’t be enjoying such great flowers.” And it’s the flowers that make him a good florist, he says.
“I choose particularly beautiful flowers and then I just put them together and the combos work.But I can’t be naïve and think that I don’t have some kind of talent!”
Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: John Ellis.