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Q&A with Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green

Bay Area Summit speaker will share her story and her floristry style in "BRANDING THE SUSTAINABLE FLORAL BUSINESS"

Gorgeous and Green's Pilar Zuniga discusses her values, mission and aesthetic. All photos (c) Lauren Edith Anderson

Pilar Zuniga is lead floral designer and owner of Gorgeous and Green, a studio and online floral business, and her colorful and exuberant style has developed a loyal following. A co-worker once observed that her “cultural experience educates [her] floral design,” and Pilar reflects that this may be true: “The jewelry I wear, the colors I wear, the fabrics I use, how I decorate my house—I have a very color-feeling [style]. I have a lot of stuff from Mexico. I am very familiar with that culture—because I am Mexican—and I think it does play a part in my design, and maybe—what I perceive as beautiful?”

Pilar’s studio, Gorgeous and Green, is committed to sustainability—including sourcing its flowers locally and seasonally, using eco-friendly materials, and basing its business practices in sustainable values. Pilar initially started Gorgeous and Green as a sustainable event planning and floral decor business in 2008, inspired by her experience planning her own wedding as sustainably as possible. In 2010, it became a retail boutique—a studio and place where customers could buy bouquets and sustainable, handmade products. Over the years the shop grew, and Pilar added an online component. “I did the retail business for six and a half years all together,” she says, “and then I was pretty burnt,” so three and a half years ago she closed the shop and continued her work exclusively online. Currently, Gorgeous and Green offers Pilar’s unique floral design as well as online ordering, deliveries, and more. When the shop closed “it was a sad day,” Pilar recalls, but she feels her simpler operation is best. “It’s mostly just me behind the scenes creating arrangements, answering emails, working on proposals, and then I have contract work—so when I need folks I bring them in.”

For Pilar, sustainable florals has a lot to do with sourcing locally. “When people are buying flowers, I feel like they don’t always stop to think [about where flowers come from]—I think it might be because they don’t want to know,” Pilar observes. Part of what the floral industry relies on is buyers realizing that there are reasons for price differences among flowers, and that variations in where and how they are grown matter. From the perspective of the designer, there are also “so many benefits” to sourcing locally: “I’m buying from the people who are planting. They can tell me what they have. I can give them feedback on their products. They’ve been working that land for maybe even generations. They are very much a part of their community, and so I know that buying from them is helping them make a living, and in turn they are helping me make a living.”

Pilar’s 2020 Slow Flowers Summit presentation, “Branding the Sustainable Floral Business,” will address how branding and the values of sustainability in florals relate. Regarding the name of her business, Pilar says, “I really wanted to be clear. When I say ‘Green,’ I’m literally saying ‘I’m eco-friendly—and even though I’m eco-friendly, I can still make beautiful things, and you’ll want them delivered to your house!’” For Pilar, an important dimension of branding is education. “I’m at a point now where people like my floral design just because they like the style…. I want to let them know that my being sustainable and eco-friendly is also a benefit of hiring me—and it also comes with some rules,” Pilar emphasizes. These rules include eschewing floral foam, limiting plastic waste, and sourcing flowers from local growers. Within these parameters, the design possibilities are endless.

Sustainability as it relates to branding also holds you accountable to your values, Pilar says. “If you tell somebody that this is what you’re doing, then you better be doing that, and you better be doing more. I want you to do more than what the green certification says you should do.” Pilar gives an example within her process: “I save every single rubber band, every single twist tie, and every single piece of plastic. I don’t pay for trash in my studio; I only pay for recycling and compost.” This commitment, born out of her business ethic, is self-reinforcing: “I want to make sure that I don’t take the easy route…. We all want to make things a little easier for ourselves, especially when it comes to work,” Pilar explains, but “when you brand yourself, hopefully it holds you accountable to that statement.”

Slow Flowers welcomes our 2020 Summit contributor E. T. Perry. E. T. is a writer and editor based in New England. She graduated with honors from Vassar College in 2013, earning her BA in English and specializing in literature and literary theory. She is a lover of sustainable agriculture and self-reliance, and has experience gardening and farming, including on a flower farm in the Hudson Valley, NY. She has contributed creative writing, arts journalism, and literary criticism to a variety of publications, both in print and online.

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