Saipua‘s co-founder Sarah Ryhanen is incredibly humble. In speaking to the go-to in wedding floral design about the evolution of her brand, which industry vets will acknowledge is at the top of its game, and her latest and largest endeavor–building up her farm, World’s End–she’ll consistently credit Saipua’s successes to the communal work of her team and her family. Sentences consistently begin with “We…,” “Our…,” “My partner Eric and I…” and it becomes clear: when a bride hires Saipua for her wedding day, she’s not just getting Sarah’s keen eye. Saipua couples receive the expertise of a full-scale operation, where each florist (and farmer) contributes something unique and individual to the overall design of each room, bouquet and installation.
So went the day BAZAAR spent up at World’s End farm, playing with Sarah and Erics’ adorable dogs, admiring their chickens and sheep and watching Sarah and the Saipua team curate design concepts and arrangements solely from the flowers harvested this spring. Each member of the team contributed their thoughts; Sarah and one of her floral assistants even had a small conference about a single bloom and its relevance in the all-white bouquet pictured below. As we worked, the team divided and conquered, also working to prepare the most delicious farm fresh lunch of asparagus, toasted country bread, eggs and homemade hollandaise to reboot us for the afternoon’s shots (the most delicious eggs, vegetables and herbs as well as the sheeps’ wool are all additional perks and products reaped from owning one’s own farm). During our leisurely farm-to-table meal, I sat down with Saipua’s founder in hopes of uncovering the key ingredient in her brand’s secret sauce and to get her take on making the best of each season’s flowers to achieve the ultimate rustic and romantic wedding decor. Here, breathtaking inspiration for effortlessly chic décor ideas, bouquets and a sneak peek of Saipua’s design process.
You’ve come to be known in the industry as one of the founders of the Dutch Masters-inspired, semi-wild floral style that’s become so popular at weddings as of late. How do you describe your own style to clients?
Our flowers are loose and romantic and so close to what you’d get in an overgrown garden. I always aim to evoke this tension between beauty and decay–a rose is never quite as beautiful as right before it fades. It’s so tricky, but I really try to highlight that peak in all our flower work.
How did you get your start?
My partner Eric and I helped my mom take her soap hobby from farmers markets into the wholesale market with a package revamp in 2005. The original logo had a very kitschy feel; it was a woman bathing in a creek, a line drawing with a little side boob. The business was called Creekside Soaps. We changed the name of the soap to Saipua (derived from the Finnish word for soap–my dad is from Finland). We wrapped the soaps in nice papers and then started selling a lot of it wholesale to stores around the world. I had since fallen in love with flowers after receiving an exquisite bouquet of black dahlias for my birthday and we added flowers to the business when I quit my job as an art curator to work at Saipua full time.
How do you differentiate your work so it’s unique to each season and how do you feel it’s best to embrace the season when you’re designing?
We have always worked exclusively with the seasons, so you’ll never see a peony in our studio in December; only in May and June. The flowers are just better that way, they’re more vivacious. Decorating with flowers inside should be a reflection of what’s happening outside. There is a pink dogwood happening outside my office window now on the farm. I will cut a piece and put it on my desk after I finish talking to you!
What are the key blooms you were working with this past Spring and what’s your recommended way to use them?
Right now we’re working with iris, peony, sweet peas and we’re at the tail end of flowering branches. I always recommend that people let the flowers sort of speak for themselves, keeping it simple if they are arranging themselves. Start with a bunch of peonies on your bedside table, the fragrance is so lovely to wake up to. In the arrangements pictured here, we highlighted poppies, Belle Epoch tulips, quince branches, tiarella and foxglove (pictured below).
After years working as a successful florist and a pioneer in the wedding design world, how did your farm, World’s End, come to be and how is it changing the scope of Saipua?
We wanted to buy a house and couldn’t afford to buy [what we were looking for] in Brooklyn. I always wanted to have a garden, so we started looking upstate. We had to come this far north to find something that suited us. Friends complained about the distance to visit and so we dubbed it World’s End. It’s also the title of my favorite TC Boyle novel that takes place in my hometown of Peekskill, NY.
Farming has changed our business in so many ways–for one, we are growing some of the most unique varieties of flowers for our brides and our retail shop, things we just cannot source elsewhere, like campanula ‘takesima’ brown bearded iris and clematis ‘tangutica.’ It’s also allowed us to start a giant compost program–we now compost 100% of our green waste–the truck that brings our flowers to the city brings all of our compost back up to the farm where we process it and use it to apply to next year’s flower beds.
Tell us about your weddings aesthetic–what can a bride find with Saipua that she doesn’t find elsewhere?
I think more than any of our competitors, we are obsessed with details and quality. When our studio works on a wedding, we generally have ten designers each making a centerpiece or two. That way, the quality does not get diluted with a rushed factory line style set-up. Each centerpiece is perfect and unique within the defined color palette and floral set. We don’t stem count, and we don’t streamline anything. It’s really art for us; I like to imagine guests visiting other tables to investigate blooms across the ballroom!
Aside from working with seasonal blooms, what trends are you noticing popping up in the weddings space, from bouquets to centerpieces to overall décor?
I personally feel that trends don’t apply to the best florists out there. If you look back at the big influencers (Constance Spry, the Madderlakes, Ariella Chezar…[just to name a few] their work is timeless. And incidentally, so connected to nature and the garden. It’s the unfortunate styles that trend and fade…the tight domes of roses and hydrangea in a leaf-wrapped vase, the succulents wired onto a stick and placed in bouquets…those things come and go. But, incredibly fragranced heirloom roses are always good and relevant. I’d even argue that a sunflower–forever burned in my brain as the 90’s floral mascot of Blossom or the Elizabeth Arden perfume (do sunflowers even have a fragrance?!)–could stand the test of time if used appropriately. It’s a more fussy approach like plastic crystals hanging in floral arrangements that is subject to trend and fade.
What are your top tips for achieving this rustic style, while still keeping it modern and authentic?
1. Never underestimate the power of roadside Queen Anne’s Lace foraged by your bridesmaids.
2. Mason Jars are back–trust.
3. Ombré-dip-dyed, gauzey table runners on a long wood table, haphazardly gathered down the middle are your friends.
4. Masses of dark colored taper candles that drip wax as the night unfolds.
5. Somewhere, no matter where (bar, entrance, by the ladies room) have your florist build a great big ‘jaw-dropper’ that your guests will ogle and wonder if its ‘real’.
6. Someone singing opera.
7. A drunk uncle.
By Carrie Goldberg; Photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo; Floral Design by Saipua; Special Thanks to World’s End Farm and Team Saipua
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US