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American Flowers Week botanical couture from South Carolina. All photography
(c) Philip Casey

Co-designers Toni Reale of Roadside Blooms and Laura Mewbourn of Feast & Flora Farm viewed their American Flowers Week botanical couture collaboration as an opportunity to highlight the unique heritage and culture of coastal South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee, a community descended from West African and Central African enslaved people. The women explain, “we were also inspired by the work of noted Southern painter Jonathan Green and spent a lot of time pouring over photos of his work, as well as photos of women in traditional Gullah dress.

Behind the scenes with Laura Mewbourn of Feast & Flora (left) and Toni Reale of Roadside Blooms (right), with model Giovanni Richardson

“We wanted to focus on primary colors for the flowers — the reds, blues, yellows that so frequently appear in Mr. Green’s paintings — and we selected a location that reflects the culture and story of the Gullah Geechee people,” Laura says. “This palette pops brilliantly against the greenery of the marsh location, as well as the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767, a fraternal common house built in 1915 by black farmers for their community.”

Production day at the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767; Toni Reale (left) attaches a vibrant palette of Lowcountry S.C.-grown blooms, including those from Feast & Flora Farm (right).

Flowers grown in local soil at Feast & Flora Farm and foraged on location compose a brillant floral garment for their model, Giovanni Richardson, “Queen Gigi Ma’at Ogechi,” Sea Island Gullah Chieftess and founding member of A Taste of Gullah. “As we created Queen Gigi’s dress, we listened to her stories, bearing witness to a beautiful, strong woman, living her life and honoring her heritage as a descendant of slaves. Through listening, understanding and facing the dark reality that is our history, and our present, we believe we can create a different future,” Toni says.

This project was personal and meaningful to the creators, and they credit their model for her guidance and collaboration. “We saw this as an opportunity to highlight the Gullah Geechee community with the hope of challenging people to think of Charleston not just as a place of iconic landmarks frequented by tourists, but as a place whose farms, homes, and plantations were born on the backs of enslaved people, people whose descendants live here and to whom we owe a debt we will never be able to repay.”

Attaching blooms, one at a time (left) and the dream team (right)

For more about this gorgeous floral project, read Laura’s recent article, “Botanical Couture and the importance of American-grown.”

Toni recently wrote about the experience on her blog, as well: “American Flowers Week 2019.”

Creative Credits:
Floral Designer: Toni Reale, Roadside Blooms, North Charleston, S.C., roadsideblooms.com, @roadsideblooms_shop
Farmer/Florist: Laura Mewbourn, Feast & Flora Farm, Meggett, S.C., feastandflorafarm.com, @feastandflora
Venue: Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767, James Island, S.C., National Registry of Historic Place
Model: Giovanni Richardson, “Queen Gigi Ma’at Ogechi,” Sea Island Gullah Chieftess and founding member of A Taste of Gullah, tasteofgullah.com
Design Assistants: Kelsey Bacon, Joy Colby, Scott Woytowick
Photography: Philip Casey, philipcaseyphoto.com, @philipcaseyphoto