It’s October, but New York City storefronts are experiencing perpetual spring. There are dahlias cascading along the entrance of a West Village massage studio, while sunflowers have taken over a jewelry boutique four blocks over. On a rainy morning in late September, the Soho Uniqlo resembled the hedges of an English garden, and the Mangia nearby had faux hydrangea, baby’s breath, and what appeared to be clusters of grapes forming an arch around its double doors. The commerce superbloom isn’t necessarily a new thing — London’s annual Chelsea Flower Show has been at it for decades, and flower installations have become a staple of pop-up branded events — but they’re becoming decidedly more permanent.
It all feels like a natural progression of the once-ubiquitous flower walls — those giant bloom-covered squares that were a staple of every influencer event and Kardashian celebration in the late 2010s. Why do a wall when you could do an entire shop? Why save the floral spectacle for an event when shopping for Heattech could be the event?
Florist Julia Testa might be partially to blame. “I was having a hard time getting the store off the ground,” Testa says of the Soho shop she opened in 2017. So she and her team created a balloon installation — big, bright, climbing three stories. People loved it. Not only did it lead to a project with M.A.C Cosmetics — “which essentially saved our company,” Testa says — but everyone who passed by would lightly freak out. From there, flowers started popping up in unexpected locations thanks to a pandemic project called “Flower Flash,” Lewis Miller Designs’ series of surprise floral art installations across the city in 2020.
By the time New York reopened, floral installations had seemingly taken some sort of collective hold on our consciousness, and businesses needed ways to bring customers to their outdoor spaces. Florists like Testa and Miller were getting called daily — tasked with making a more “classical” approach at Banana Republic, a large, monochromatic blue arrangement in front of the now-closed Something Navy, and a hyperfemme situation at LoveShackFancy. “People thought it was going to be a fad … a way to draw people into stores after the pandemic,” Testa says. It hasn’t gone anywhere.
And now it never will — because it’s moved onto TikTok. Boutiques across the world, from Chicago to Sydney to Toronto, have opted for a more budget-friendly approach, often utilizing faux flowers, in a bid to be photographed. Floral installations of all kinds have been increasingly common as a means of creating a marketing spectacle. To celebrate the launch of its flagship store in Tokyo, Tiffany & Co. partnered with painter Damien Hirst to turn the façade of its building into a massive mural of cherry blossoms. At Coachella, Bad Bunny and Adidas covered the outside of their Campus Wild Moss pop-up with over 50,000 flowers.
However, the botanic takeover may be hitting a saturation point. In addition to the rose arches at Rockefeller Plaza and branded florals on Fifth Avenue, flower installations are becoming a private indulgence. “What I’m seeing more of now is, believe it or not, wealthy residential spaces,” Testa says. Where her business once subsisted solely on corporate projects, Testa is now getting an increasing number of requests from people who want large-scale floral installations outside their homes. She describes a recent private installation she did for a brownstone owner’s “Sleeping Beauty–themed” Halloween party. It’s 18 feet of skeletons, bats, and roses that climb the façade. “This is quite literally just for a person to have a party,” Testa said. “She spent $10,000.”