How did Whitney Bromberg Hawkings go from a top role working for one of the most beloved American designers to become the go-to florist for the fashion world? The founder of FLOWERBX tells The Daily Summer how a long-running position at Tom Ford inspired her to take a leap and create an inventive and chic new way to order flowers online.
Tell us how FLOWERBX came to life.
After working for Tom Ford for 19 years and feeling frustrated with the cost and inconsistency of the flowers I was buying and sending, I wanted to create a global branded floral offering. Also, as a working mom, I was buying everything online, from my clothes and beauty products to my groceries and organic produce. Fresh flowers were the one thing I couldn’t buy, in a simple, chic, and consistent way, online.
What’s the difference between FLOWERBX and a florist?
What differentiates us from other florists is that we’re buying and selling flowers in a completely new way. We have eschewed traditional bouquets stuffed with filler for single varietal bunches of one type of flower. Our unique negative working-capital business model means we only cut flowers that you have purchased already and deliver them to you the day that they arrive to us. This eliminates any waste, making us a more sustainable option than a traditional florist, and crucially allows us to offer flowers that are days fresher at a fraction of the price of other florists.
How did you get it off the ground?
I was so lucky that, after working for Tom Ford for so long, I had a great little black book of a lot of the world’s most fabulous people, and I felt so lucky and grateful that they all got behind me and supported me in this new venture immediately. Whoever says that fashion people are fickle is completely wrong.
You have an unusual background for someone now in the floral business. Tell us about your career before FLOWERBX.
I started my career, straight out of school, as Tom Ford’s PA at Gucci in Paris in 1998. That led to a two-decade-long career by his side, where I had the ride of a lifetime! I left Gucci with him in 2005 and headed up communications for his eponymous brand, when I left to start FLOWERBX.
You were with Tom for 19 years. What did you learn about business from him?
I couldn’t have learned from a better teacher how to build a successful, recognizable, and powerful brand, but that was just one of the many lessons I learned during my time working for Tom. He taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance but also about the art of creating desire, and I have applied all these learnings to FLOWERBX.
You’re now known as the go-to florist for the fashion set in Europe. What does that praise from the industry mean to you, and what companies are you working with?
I feel fortunate to work with such amazing brands across Europe and am proud to be able to offer them a consistent product and service across multiple territories. From Dior to Tiffany, with De Beers Jewelers, Jimmy Choo, and many others in between, we couldn’t ask for more inspiring collaborations and are excited to continue to celebrate these relationships as we expand across the U.S.
Why do you think flowers and fashion go hand in hand?
Fashion has always celebrated flowers, as one of the most naturally perfect things in the world. Of course, Christian Dior said, “After women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world,” and the relationship between fashion and flowers has always been an intimate one. From designers to photographers like Irving Penn, who shot flowers in the most exquisite way, fashion has always had a love affair with flowers, and I’m so lucky to straddle two of the most beautiful industries.
When did you expand into the East Coast in the U.S.?
FLOWERBX was always going to be a global solution for flowers, and the beauty of the concept was that it was a product that brands and individuals could trust as their international go-to for flowers. Launching in New York City last year was an obvious evolution for the brand that catered to our international clients, and COVID-19 accelerated our launch across the East Coast as we found a lot of our Manhattan clients left the city but still wanted to order flowers and stay connected with loved ones through flowers.
You started delivering to the Hamptons this past spring. How has business been going?
We’re so happy that FLOWERBX has resonated so well with each territory that we launch, and the Hamptons have been no exception. We had a record launch across the East Coast in May, with the combination of COVID-19 and Mother’s Day, and have been happy to be able to continue to provide beauty during such challenging times.
You’re making a big step soon with expansion into the West Coast.
We’re excited to launch our West Coast hub in September to serve customers across California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana, doubling our U.S. distribution in one step. Aside from the U.K. and U.S., FLOWERBX is also available in France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and 17 other countries.
What’s next after your West Coast expansion?
We hope to launch across the entire U.S. by the first quarter of 2021 and later to the Middle East and Asia to solidify our foothold as the first-ever global flower brand.
Your line of fragrances is very chic.
It seemed like the obvious evolution of our single-note ethos to launch a limited range of candles and room sprays in three of my favorite floral scents—tuberose, muguet (lily of the valley), and peony. We’re excited to launch a eucalyptus scent candle and room spray in the fall.
What are you most excited about for the future of the business?
I’m most excited about FLOWERBX being known as the chic, simple, and sophisticated way to buy flowers globally. While most international floral marketplaces are consistently disappointing, I want to create a consistently beautiful, fresh, and branded way to buy the best-quality flowers anywhere in the world.
Finally, what are your favorite autumn flowers?
I think that autumn flowers are highly underrated! Dahlia are, by far, my favorite early fall flower, and then I love it when all the autumnal shades of hydrangea come back into season later in the fall and make way for ranunculus, arguably one of nature’s most beautiful creations.