Co-designers Toni Reale of Roadside Blooms and Laura Mewbourn of Feast & Flora Farm viewed their American Flowers Week botanical couture collaboration as an opportunity to highlight the unique heritage and culture of coastal South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee, a community descended from West African and Central African enslaved people. The women explain, “we were also inspired by the work of noted Southern painter Jonathan Green and spent a lot of time pouring over photos of his work, as well as photos of women in traditional Gullah dress.
“We wanted to focus on primary colors for the flowers — the reds, blues, yellows that so frequently appear in Mr. Green’s paintings — and we selected a location that reflects the culture and story of the Gullah Geechee people,” Laura says. “This palette pops brilliantly against the greenery of the marsh location, as well as the Seashore Farmers’ Lodge No. 767, a fraternal common house built in 1915 by black farmers for their community.”
Flowers grown in local soil at Feast & Flora Farm and foraged on location compose a brilliant floral garment for their model, Giovanni Richardson, “Queen Gigi Ma’at Ogechi,” Sea Island Gullah Chieftess and founding member of A Taste of Gullah. “As we created Queen Gigi’s dress, we listened to her stories, bearing witness to a beautiful, strong woman, living her life and honoring her heritage as a descendant of slaves. Through listening, understanding and facing the dark reality that is our history, and our present, we believe we can create a different future,” Toni says.