Q&A with Senior Events Florist, Ele Brakels, London
Every fortnight we invite you to take a peek behind the scenes at McQueens Flowers and meet the people who form the fabric of who we are, and what we create. Today we have the pleasure of introducing you to our London-based Events Florist, Ele Brakels.
Ele, tell us how you came to work at McQueens Flowers and what was your first experience at the company?
Four years ago, I was lucky enough to win a scholarship place at McQueens Flower School for their Career Course. When I had finished the course, I stayed on at McQueens for work experience, learning first-hand what it was like to work in large events, hotel contracts and a busy shop. I think I learnt more in these few weeks about the industry than in my whole floristry career. After this I had the confidence to go and work freelance in and around London, which was invaluable. It is great to see how different florists work, and I met so many friends in the industry. I always loved McQueens from the moment I went there, so going to back full-time felt really natural.
What did it mean for you to get this job?
Before working at McQueens Flowers, I had worked briefly in floristry and fallen in love with it but didn’t know how to pursue it as a career, so being able to do the school was fantastic. So now being able to work there full-time, in the place where it all started, is wonderful.
What are some of the roles you have held since working in the company?
I started at McQueens working in our concession shop in Claridge's hotel. Here we covered shop work, room flowers, small events and hotel maintenance. Since then, I have worked in the retail shop, contracts team, and now in events.
What has been your favourite experience since working at McQueens Flowers?
It is so hard to single out one thing, but I think all the locations I have been lucky enough to work in have been an incredible experience. Sometimes, when it’s been a long day, or I am rushing around doing last minute touches before an event starts, I catch myself and think ‘wow, you are literally in one of the most beautiful places right now!’ and that is something I would never get to experience if it wasn’t for working at McQueens.
What has surprised you most about the Floristry Industry?
I think the thing that definitely surprised me most is how varied it is. There are so many things you probably wouldn’t think of when you think of being a florist. Things like decorating a huge tree in someone’s back garden, going to client meetings in hotels, polishing candles, driving a van...and then making all sorts of things with flowers, from a tiny buttonhole to a huge floral arch. Floristry can be strenuous, but it is definitely not boring.
In light of upcoming International Women's Day (March 8th), what women inspire you - both personally and professionally?
I think personally, one of the most inspirational women to me is Dolly Parton. She remains true to her authentic self and proves that you can have worldwide success and still be kind, understanding and not take yourself too seriously. Her hair is as impressive as her firm faith in people.
And then professionally there is the whole team of McQueens girls! They blow my mind with their unwavering support and creativity, both in and out of work. There is always laughing, no job is ever too big for them and wow they can lift! I’m so proud to work alongside all the women at McQueens.
Lastly, I can’t not mention Kally Ellis, the McQueens Flowers founder. What she has created from the ground-up is astonishing! She taught me the importance of attention to detail, and that confidence is key. I have also never met anyone so charming.
Do you have a favourite season for flowers?
I love the seasons. When a flower comes into season and you see it for the first time, it represents a new phase, and it is so hard not to get excited about that! I am always so delighted to see mimosa because it screams ‘spring is coming’ - but I think my favourite season for flowers has to be autumn. It’s all rich colours, seed pods, berries, grasses... So. Much. Texture.