Matthew Robbins. He’s one of those total keepers in this business. Because not only is he one of the most talented floral designers on the planet. He’s also really nice. And gracious. And humble. And in the few seconds that I finally had a chance to shake his hand a few months back, I could tell that no matter how huge he becomes, he will always be that same lovely person. So today, with photography by the equally captivating Anne Robert we get to go Behind the Designer with Matthew. And discover what makes him, well, him. Oh, and there is more right here.
SMP: What inspires you?
MR: I’m most inspired by garden environments, classic and contemporary art, and beautifully designed interior spaces. I find so much of my inspiration when I travel. I’m still finding ideas and concepts inspired by my visit to Ireland last summer. The mossy, lush gardens I walked through, the Irish landscape and portrait painters I discovered and the dreamy castles I stayed in all provided endless inspiration.
SMP: What’s your most beloved flower?
MR: Sweet pea is my absolute favorite flower. I love the effortless and whimsical nature of this flower. Clematis is probably right up there as another top favorite followed by anemones.
SMP: Your biggest life achievement?
MR: I feel incredibly blessed and lucky for finding a soul mate and the love of my life…my husband, Jack.
SMP: Your biggest career achievement?
MR: Writing my first book is probably the current highlight of my career. There are so many achievements and moments I’m so very proud of but delivering a finished, beautiful book was a serious labor of love and something I’m immensely proud of.
SMP: What can’t you live without?
MR: I can’t live without travel. I crave it and it feeds my soul. I also can’t live without time spent on a beach, the sound of the ocean and the hot sand under my feet.
SMP: What have you learnt along the way?
MR: Stay true to your work and your spirit. Authenticity is key and remembering to be grateful, patient and kind are all high on my priority list. Being a demanding diva is not a healthy way to build your name or your business. Your clients and your audience will grow tired of that attitude quickly.
SMP: If you could predict the next trend in florals, what would it be?
MR: I believe there will be a trend to move away from so many insanely mixed, complicated and overly textural arrangements with a focus on simple, unfussy and natural pieces.
SMP: What would you consider to be your “big break”?
MR: I give all of the credit for my “big break” to Martha Stewart and her company. When I first started my own company I was lucky enough to be discovered within the first six months of business by her incredible team. Thankfully Martha and team loved my work right away and I was on her show and in the magazine that same year. It was sort of big deal to go from being the new kid on a very big block to having a full feature in the most beloved and treasured Weddings magazine. At the time there were no incredible blogs or fabulous online features so print and TV were the major outlets for getting noticed.
SMP: How did you know you wanted to do this for a living?
MR: I actually never really declared a desire to focus specifically on floral and event design. At my core I’m a designer and a classically trained artist (Painter, printmaker textiles and Art History) so I understood from the beginning that no matter what I do it has to always be creative and I have to be bringing beauty into the world.
SMP: How did you go about doing so?
MR: I believe careers should be organic and I always pay attention to the signals leading me along the way to the next level, the next project or phase in my own evolution. One must always look for opportunity and one of the secrets to my own success is my willingness to be open to these moments and relationships that must cherished and used as building blocks. Think of your career as a library and you are constantly adding new books, new references, sources, etc. to your library so you have more and more to offer as you evolve.
SMP: The biggest lesson in business you’ve ever learnt?
MR: I think the hardest lesson to learn is realizing you can’t please everyone and you can’t say yes to every client or project. When you need to pay the bills and keep your business running it can be tempting to take on projects that are not appropriate for your work, your brand or your vision. Remember when a client or project isn’t a good match you are better off passing on the job. Wait for the projects that really allow you and your work to shine.
SMP: How do you maintain that always sought after work-life balance?
MR: This is still a challenge even after many years of working hard to find that balance. I don’t believe you can really have a balance when you are building a successful business or following a dream. It isn’t so important if you have goals and you want to reach those goals. I think the balance required is the ability to step back and remember this is not all of you and this is not your only path. Remember you are not your work. You are so much more than your career. The danger comes in that space when we forget to separate from our work and we start to assume our entire identity is wrapped up in our achievements.
SMP: The best project you’ve ever worked on?
MR: I really don’t know how to answer this question, as I’m not sure I would categorize one as the best project. One of my absolute favorite moments will forever be setting up a dinner party in amazing and very old cave in the Umbrian hills of Italy. I just loved everything about it and the memories of that project are filled with laughter, drama, beauty and lots of energy!
SMP: The worst?
MR: My least favorite project is probably the one where I learned that big lesson I mentioned earlier. It was early in my career and I was convinced I could take on a project that was completely opposite my aesthetic and my design sensibility. I hated every minute of it because the client constantly demanded things I just couldn’t bring myself to do. It felt like torture
SMP: Any tips for a young someone who hopes to follow in your footsteps?
MR: Stay positive and focused on what makes you and your work special. Remember success requires hard work and experience. Some of that work and experience will be frustrating and probably really upsetting but you need all of it to build a great career and business. Don’t forget you can’t be really good at everything but you need to be really, really good at a few things. When you identify what these things are just stay focused on being the very best and growing from that place.
A huge, HUGE thank you to Matthew for opening up his studio and to Anne for capturing it all to stunning perfection.