Flowers have been a subliminal theme for McQueens event florist Paulina throughout her life. The word ‘flowers’ features in her surname (Kwiat means flower in her native Poland), she was born in April (which is the month of flowers back home) and she even lived on Rose Street when she grew up – someone was definitely trying to steer her in her career choice! We spoke to Paulina, to find out about her passion for flowers, her time working at McQueens, and what can be achieved with lots of hard work and a little prayer…
Paulina, where did the interest in flowers come from?
I have always admired flowers but working with them never really occurred to me. In school, I enjoyed biology and chemistry, but I also liked the arts. After I left, I studied landscape architecture for parks and gardens. I realised quickly that although I loved working with nature, I didn’t have the passion for the job. I think you owe it to yourself to find a job that inspires you.
I came to the UK for a holiday when I was at university, and just fell in love with London. I eventually moved here and began working in a restaurant. It was near Christmastime and I was working on a shift when a team of florists came to install Christmas decorations. I was so impressed with what they were doing that I decided to start to look into how I could get into the industry. I wasn’t having much luck at first – most shops were unwilling to take a trainee – but I am a Christian and my faith is very important to me. I believe in the power of prayer and I eventually came across an advert for someone who was looking for a part-time trainee with no experience. Getting that job was the foot in the door that I needed! It was extremely hard work, the pay was very low and the hours were extremely long – especially as I had to continue working in the restaurant – but I knew this was my chance to get the training I needed. After three months I was offered a full-time job, and I have loved it ever since.
How did you begin working at McQueens?
I was very grateful to have found a job working at a florist’s, and I worked very hard there for 18 months. But as my skills grew, I wanted more of a challenge and was interested in exploring different styles of flower design. I have always admired McQueens and I eventually plucked up the courage to apply for a job at McQueens at Claridge’s Hotel as a junior florist. I was so excited when I got offered the job! Working there was a great experience for me, and my ability and confidence quickly increased. When another job came up at McQueens HQ, I transferred over to work in a bigger team. I eventually started working for the McQueens events team which has been a great challenge that I have really enjoyed.
What do you enjoy most about working with McQueens events?
There is nothing like working on really big events! Team work is always important, and we all complement each other when it comes to skills. I actually enjoy the stress and that adrenaline kick of working to deadlines, and being out on the road. And I love those big jobs when we are all working together and the team gets everything done – sometimes we seem to understand what needs to be done without even communicating with each other! Working at McQueens is really upbeat. It feels like there is a birthday or a party or a mini drama every week, and even though it is a big company, it feels like a family.
What is your personal style of flowers?
I love a very natural and unkempt style, and I actually love foliage more than flowers – the wilder, the better! I am not that keen on very cultivated flowers; I prefer flowers like dill, stephanotis, and I adore ferns.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to work with flowers?
I know now that McQueens Flower School would be a very good start! But there are other ways of getting into the industry. I managed it by working very hard and committing to it even when it was very tough. Also, I am a very firm believer in the power of prayer. I also believe that you owe it to yourself to find a job that you have a real passion for.