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“My mission is to indigenize the floral industry,” says Shayai Lucero, an Indigenous florist born and raised on the reservations of the Pueblos of Acoma and Laguna in New Mexico. She’s part of a new crop of floral designers—primarily women of color—ensuring that your Instagram-worthy arrangements come wrapped in activism. The bouquets she makes at her New Mexico reservation-based Earth & Sky Floral Designs are highly intentional, sometimes using plants, vegetables, and stones that symbolize various aspects of her heritage. “Parts of our culture are not just things you play around with,” says Lucero. “I eventually want to write a blog post that says, ‘No, I will not decorate your macramé tipi.’” 

IMG 0002 86ab6Shayai Lucero by Lonnie Anderson

IMG 9663 02b35Photo: Lonnie Anderson

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Anita Vuong, an L.A.-based florist whose bouquets look like the best sunsets you’ve ever seen, is starting conversations about another unspoken part of the floral industry: death care. Through her shop Guided by Flowers, the Vietnamese-Chinese florist uses a “buy one, gift one to hospice” model while hosting workshops about death. Prior to the pandemic, she also created a floral repurposing program that allowed her to use otherwise-wasted event florals. “I try to be as engaging as I possibly can with people about my work,” she says, “and have dialogue about bringing death to the forefront of our consciousness.” 

portrait a321eAnita Vuong

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Under New MGMT, another L.A. floral design studio, fosters a different kind of dialogue with their lavish bouquets that feature gemstones, painted flowers, tulle, and even fruit. “On social media, we are constantly challenging white supremacy and bigotry through our art in hopes of shedding light on issues we find important, like the Black Lives Matter movement and classism,” says Filipina owner Alex Floro. “We try to shift the traditional power structures of our industry by hiring exclusively POC, womxn, and LGBTQ+ staff.” 

JessicaPomerantz2 bb265Alex Floro by Jessica Pomerantz

CarrianneOlder2 3f1d5Photo: Carrianne Older

Lucero agrees that representation matters. “I’m just working hard in what can be a difficult space to walk into,” she says, “to make it comfortable for the next Indigenous person who walks in behind me.”

How to Make an Arrangement More…

Meaningful: 

“I like to put my cell phone down and just focus on the flowers. Be intentional and go slow. Thank the flowers for the loving energy they give so freely.”

Anita Vuong
@guidedbyflowers

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Affordable: 

“We all have containers around us, even if it’s a coffee cup. I once made a design in a Planters Mr. Peanut jar.” 

Shayai Lucero
@earthskyfloral

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Personal:

“Handwritten cards are a must. I also like to include small mementos. If I know my friend is having a particularly hard time, I’ll make sure the bouquet includes their favorite color and a little snack.” 

Alex Floro
@undernewmgmt 

ChickenNugget1 cd912Photo: Alex Floro

By Anna Gragert 

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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