Heike Hayward, the founder of Fleur le Cordeur, is nothing short of a floral design extraordinaire. The flower installations and arrangements that she creates with her team, for weddings and other events, never fails to leave us in awe. However, after achieving ongoing, resounding success with the events arm of her business, Heike decided to embark on a new adventure by introducing Fleur le Cordeur Linen Designs.
She ran this division of her business on her own by selling linen items online– until she met Michele Corner, a creative soul with a burning desire to open a store in Stellenbosch. Given that, these two ladies had the ideal opportunity to showcase their exquisite and artistically distinct product range to their customers, in the flesh. Crafted with only the finest quality raw linen and cotton, their work entices style connoisseurs with impeccable taste.
They teamed up to launch the Fleur le Cordeur store in De Wet Square, a charming shopping spot on the corner of Church and Bird Streets in Stellenbosch. We chatted to Heike about their journey thus far and their incomparable masterpieces, which cannot go unnoticed.
Tell us the story of how Fleur le Cordeur Linen Designs was born.
So basically, I’ve been doing weddings for seven years now, and about five years into it, say about two and a half years ago, someone made a random statement. They saw some flowers we were doing for an event and they said, “Wow, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could have some of your flowers on my dinner table at home, permanently.”
And obviously she was joking, and just you know, kind of saying that she would love to have the fresh flowers there forever, but that little seed was planted and I kept thinking, “How can we bring flowers to people’s homes permanently, because I definitely don’t want to have a flower delivery service part of my business? I just want to focus on events.”
But at the same time, I’ve got such a huge following that loves my work and they just want a piece of my work for themselves, and that’s when I started thinking, “How do you get flowers on a dinner table permanently?” And then, the penny just dropped and I was like, “Ok, we need to start making some beautiful tablecloths.”
So that’s how it all started. We then created these designs with the same approach, as we would do tables, where I design them in such a way that it just takes the style of the florals we do.
What are the major differences between doing floral artistry for weddings and running Fleur le Cordeur Linen Designs?
The major difference between the two is that the events side will always stay the biggest side of the company, purely because that is my main fashion. My absolute main fashion is to work with fresh flowers and to deliver them on a once-off basis to clients, whereas the linen design is the opposite.
We shoot a picture (of fresh flowers) once, those are the only fresh flowers that are involved and we use the design that we can replicate over and over. So, it’s a retail approach as opposed to an artistic once-off (process).
Another difference would be the relationships. With the events side of my business, I get more involved with the relationships with the clients, the brides and the people who are celebrating whatever they’re celebrating, and that for me, is very, very special.
But, being an introvert, it’s also quite draining, so what I love about the retail side of the business is that I’m not engaging with clients. I’m literally doing something for me and people can buy it if they want. If they don’t, they don’t have to. There’s not that emotional side to it. I would say those are the two most prominent differences.
What was the most challenging task that you experienced when launching Fleur le Cordeur Linen Designs?
So, our biggest challenge when we launched the shop, and all the rest of the products, including the linen, was first of all, to find the right place and setting where we would have the right footfall. And secondly, there are so many hidden costs upfront.
We opened the shop during (wedding) season as well, which was good from a cash flow perspective, since the events side of things really helped to provide cash flow for the opening, but it also was very challenging because I was on the events side (and) Michele was busy with the shop. It was just chaos, but now everything is smooth and up and running, and it’s incredible.
How did you go about selecting a location for your store?
My partner Michele’s sister owns a restaurant in De Wet Square where our shop is, called Greengate– it’s amazing. So, Michele eats there quite a lot, often goes to the square and got inside info on this little freestanding shop in the middle of the square, which was coming up for new rental owners.
So that’s when Michele came to me and asked if I would want to open a shop with her. She’s got the right location and that’s basically how it happened. The first time I walked in there and I saw it and I was like, “It’s absolutely perfect. Absolutely perfect.”
Which types of items can customers expect to see in store?
So, the items in the shop are all to do with our floral designs. We started with the tablecloths first. When that was flying and it really worked superbly, we had people asking for napkins and pillowcases and all kinds of other items on the linen side of things, and we were then able to easily just branch out into all kinds of linen. We also started upholstering. We’ve got the cutest little ottomans; we’ve got lounge sets, so really nice key furniture items. That’s the linen side of things.
Then we’ve got the baby stuff, so we’ve got the stunning, cotton baby duvet sets. We’ve got the sweetest baby clothing, rompers, little bibs, dummy clips and then we’ve got the stationery, working with Directional Designs. It’s a company. They do gorgeous notebooks for us. We launched a beautiful calendar for 2019 and have pretty cards. We’re working on diffusers and I’m working on silk scarves. So basically, the whole idea with the shop is more gifting.
So, if you want to buy a really amazing gift, either for yourself or for someone else, you could come in there, select a few random items, and it will all make sense together. So that’s what we were working on, so that there’s a continuation between all the products and you can mix and match stuff, but there’s still that common denominator.
We also do lovely ceramic head vases, as we call them, which consist of heads that can hold flowers. People can either put orchids or single stem flowers in them, to create that unique shape. Then we also do the fragrant candles, which are incredible, and doing so well. We’ve got four different scents, which we’ve mixed ourselves and that’s just absolutely splendid.
How would you describe the aesthetic or visual identity of Fleur le Cordeur Linen Designs?
I think the aesthetic and visual identity of Fleur le Cordeur in terms of the products, is just the richness of it, it’s the “more is more”. It’s the textures, it’s the layering of textures, it’s the colours… it’s just not minimalistic. And it’s about abundance. Then also, obviously, the major thing here is floral. So, we’re not holding back the floral either– floral on floral on floral.
What are your sources of inspiration for creating the prints featured on your fabrics?
So, most of the prints are inspired by a person who the print is named after. So, for example, my very first print was the Johanna and that was inspired by my mom. That’s why it reflects her personality. So, it’s rich and abundant and full of the Israeli fruit and all of her favourite things.
Then I’ve also done the Silke, which is (named after) my sister, and her one has the very soft colours–whites and soft browns, and it’s got the whole Karoo thing going. She’s a farm girl and loves the Karoo. And, so it goes. Everyone that’s important in my life has got a print and the print was inspired by their personality.
But then I also have prints named after brides who used to be clients. Either their weddings inspired the cloth afterwards or we actually made the design for their wedding. I also have a cloth, the Penile , which was inspired by the people in the little town Penile, and all the flowers shown on it were handpicked by the community and that’s how I did that one.
Then I’ve got one for each of my daughters, Indya and Beau, and again, their adorable little personalities inspired that. So, it’s definitely driven by people and what reminds me of them when I think of them. That’s how I decide, “How do I put this together?”
What is the process that you carry out in order to produce the final design used for an item?
The process we follow is that we take all the fresh produce, pack it on the floor until we get the perfect pattern for how we want our design to look and then we shoot it from the top down. After that there’s some editing involved and once we’ve got the perfect picture, we can then print it on the linen or on any other item that we need.
What advice do you have for creatives who are contemplating the diversification of their businesses by producing new offerings?
My advice would definitely be to carefully consider whether the new offering would either enhance your primary business, or hurt it. Many times, when we go down new avenues, we neglect the first thing, the main business, because we get so excited about the new thing that we’re doing. If the main business is the main source of income, I would say hold off a little bit until you’re in a position where you can afford to play with another avenue.
If, however, the new offering that you would like to produce out of your main business will enhance it and in fact bring more customers in, then obviously that’s a no-brainer. For me, it was really about giving the average anybody, the client that is not getting married, the person that does not have the money to spend on a massive floral installation at a party, access to our flowers and our products. So in my case, one part enhances the other, so all in all, it made total sense for me.
But also, you can’t do this without help, which is why it was so important for me to find a partner, Michele, who would do the shop with me, because there’s also danger in spreading yourself so thin, that instead of producing one superior line of work like you did before, you’re now starting to produce average work, all over the place. So that’s also incredibly important to consider.