Royal florist Simon Lycett speaks with Liz Taylor about royal engagements, floral feats and fabulous times.
How did you become a florist?
Since I was seven, I’ve always known that I wanted to earn my living working with flowers. After a year at Huddersfield Poly to do Humanities, I headed off to London to work as a junior in the shop of the great, Robert Day. After 18 months I was virtually running the shop. It was amazing. The 80’s were so OTT; we had clients who would send their pilots in to collect designs and fly them back!
Then I moved on to Pulbrook and Gould which was the best experience ever, even though I was told by one of the workroom manageresses I’d never make it as a florist because my hands were too hot! The shop was incredible... we changed the window displays twice a day and had the most amazing client-base, so the work was phenomenal.
What inspires you?
I’m very lucky being an accredited supplier for so many unique London venues. I work in five historic royal palaces and being in such incredible buildings is really inspiring. Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art are inspirational and as we set up for events once the public has left and the building is closed, it’s exciting and amazing to be able to stand within the galleries totally alone but for the iconic and incredible works of art.
What was it like to design the flowers for HRH the Prince of Wales’ wedding to the Duchess of Cornwall?
I have been fortunate and privileged enough for the past few years to work for various members of our Royal family and it was been a particular privilege to decorate Windsor Castle for the reception of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. I have met HM The Queen a few times which is always very exciting and the highlight of my year. I love entertaining at home.
If we planned a dinner party at your house, who would be your dream guests?
My favourite Londoner is Constance Spry, who wasn’t actually born here, but she put London on the map in the 1920s as the place for world-class flower arranging and floristry. It’s something that I like to think we continue to this day.
Dame Judy Dench is a woman I have admired for years, for her acting and her sense of humour, and recently I watched a programme and now know she has a passion for trees - so she would defo be on the list! David Beckham – just to look at - and to reminisce about the fun we had planning the floral fabulousness that I created for his wedding in Ireland.
What is your favourite flower?
I love working with anything which has a lovely scent and I adore getting carried away with spring blooms, fragrant narcissi and lily of the valley. Roses are fabulously scented, my favourite is the Margeret Merrill, but equally I love a bunch of freshly picked snowdrops in season.
Is there a difference between a florist and floral designer?
Being a florist is about showing off a skill base, showing that you can take a flower and add value to it, not copying everyone else. There’s still a future for some florists but I also think attitudes are going to have to change and change quickly. It’s not easy to add a stamp of individuality to flowers, and that’s where the successful florists can really shine.
Daily clients come to me with exciting and innovative projects, be it a wedding, a party, a corporate dinner or a bar or batmitzvah. Being a floral designer, it is from talking with clients that I will gain an understanding of them and of what they want their event to feel like and how they want it to look and to interact. We always try to be seasonal in what we use and to ensure that the decorations we create are abundant and spectacular and give a WOW factor.
What do you love about Cheshire?
The people are warm and welcoming and very, very down to earth. You will ALWAYS receive an honest opinion. Which saves faffing about trying to guesstimate clients reactions! Within a short distance you can be within a thriving metropolis or the most wild, rugged landscape – the contrasts are striking and very special. We have worked together in some wonderful places.
Which event of ours is the most memorable for you (Venice perhaps, where we couldn’t get the flowers under the bridges!)
Yes, we’ve been lucky enough to work in some wonderful places… I adore working in an outside location, from a tiny island within the middle of the Bosphorus, to hilltop fortresses in Italy, ancient castles in Turkey, Japanese department stores, Mexican beaches and Venetian Palazzos.
Helicoptering ALL our kit onto a tiny private island off the Amalfi Coast was pretty memorable too. EVERY single item, stick and stem had to be weighed to calculate the loads of each consignment. Easy on the way out, but VERY challenging as we were de-rigging after too little sleep, too much sun and a spot too much Prosecco too! You have a unique sense of style and dress.
What is the secret to achieving the Simon Lycett ‘look’?
For all my fashion sense and to-die- for jewellery, I am a staunch traditionalist. I LOVE the ‘dressing up’ aspect of clothes and accessories, and I only ever wear what satisfies and pleases me! If it causes comment, then that’s all the better, but I honestly do dress for my own enjoyment and am never bothered what others may think of my appearance!! The contrast and the contradiction that our clothes and our appearances can achieve are fascinating and have taught me to NEVER judge a book by its cover, which in turn has taught me to NEVER be normal!