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Florist is the new unisex bag label you’ve been seeing all over Instagram

Words by Indah Dwyer

Photograhy by Chloe Horseman

And the Melbourne man behind it.

It is hard to believe that you can start embroidery at 24 years old, have an idk-what-I’m-doing moment and then find yourself in New York City with your own company. But Melbourne-born George Banks has done all that, creating his accessories label Florist in just a couple of years.

By doing what most people only ever wish they could – ditch your uni course and move to Manhattan – George is pulling off a version of what I call, The Carrie Bradsure. By lasting not so long at uni and redirecting his passion, George is starting to take up space in the fashion world. He is an advocate for following your instincts. 

“There is this movement of avant garden fashion that I have noticed in New York as young designers follow on from their final collections and start their own label,” he says, explaining his move. 

“They continue on their own trajectory, they don’t go and work for someone or work in production, they just go for it. I think the Internet has allowed that space to move forward.”

He makes doing New York in your twenties seem worth it. But it wasn’t without its grunt work.

“I use a Singer chain stitch machine from the 1930s for the embroidery, that’s what they used to use for varsity jackets. I used to stay after hours at my old job and practise on it, but I would spend two days on one design and then sell it for $200 US dollars because I had a full-time job.”

With a business model that relied on a single person hand-cutting patterns in his spare time, sewing leather bags from scratch and then embroidering designs over the top was not sustainable for the return George was getting on them. 

He had to switch it up. 

“I had to stop because I couldn’t afford to sell a bag for $200 when I spent two days on it. So all I did was the lettering and waited until people enjoyed it.”

And they did. By Christmas last year the orders came flooding in, and the stream of customers haven’t stopped. The embroidery is eye-catching, and the craftsmanship of a hand-cut and stitched leather vessel is noticeable in New York. “People stop me in the street and ask where I got my bag. And my customers tell me when others stop them in the street.”

You’re walking on the right streets for an accessory this bespoke to be noticed by strangers.

George cites both his tertiary photography studies and moving to the US to work in handcrafting leather bags as equal reasons for why Florist’s designs stand alone. That, and the leap of faith that comes with abandoning your degree and moving to another hemisphere to hustle in the toughest city in the most notorious industry in the world. 

With no background in fashion, George’s flair for design comes entirely naturally. He relies on the fast-paced accuracy of a  DIY attitude and making up his own rules as he goes along.

“In NY everyone is asking you what you’re doing all the time and it becomes something you need an answer to that you’re proud of real quick.”

The bodies of the bags are simply constructed and as he uses simple utilitarian shapes, it allows him to make the bodies quickly while also making them durable and strong. They’re also unisex. 

“The designs are all very simple and practical, they are not confined to gender at all,” he explains. “The bags are more of a vehicle to be able to express the embroidery, which I feel is definitely more my personality and my character more than the silhouette is.”

Instagram has been a real tug boat for Florist before the website launch, George was selling solely off the platform and connecting with customers via DMs. 

“Social media is good for the fashion industry because you can put out whatever you want, you can post a photo and market your own identity. It plays such a huge role when making something from nothing.”

Instagram is good for the creative spirit, but also good for building up a fan base. You can test the concept of your product in the market without having to commit to business loans and uprooting your life. George agrees. 

“You can curate your own development and then all of a sudden you have a really legit, stabilised business.”

The proliferation of Instagram means the whole project becomes less risky, but you still need a way to legitimise your side hustle. And that rests on good and innovative design.

“I would not say my bags are timeless but they are also not a trend. Walking around with them I just want to give the same feeling as when you walk around with a bouquet of flowers. A bright piece of eye candy.” 

And that they are.

Shop the collection here.

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