When Willow Crossley wore M.A.B.E's Edie top on Instagram, our website lit up in a flurry of floral activity. Floral tops, that is, not peonies. Filming from her Cotswolds home, or rather, from an outdoor, open-ended log store inside which her husband built a high table “to make it easier to arrange flowers and film from”, come rain, shine, or freezing cold temperatures, it’s here Willow records her pieces to camera. The log store is also where, in the middle of the night, vans drop off buckets of flowers for Willow to work with in the morning.
With thousands of people tuning in to both Instagram and Willow's weekly newsletter, Seedling, the combination of soothing voice and wild floral displays is nothing short of a winning formula. ‘The Perfect Instagram Life’ feels somewhat passe these days, and it’s the woman behind the gloss that garners authentic social media following. Mother to three boys - Wolf, Rafferty and Kit - in her latest book, The Wild journal: A year of Nurturing Yourself Through Nature, published in 2020, Crossley talks openly about postnatal depression. "Countless women have written to say reading my battle with postnatal depression helped them with theirs".“Doing little things can help", she goes on to say. "Taking off your socks and shoes and grounding yourself”. We discuss gardening and how “serotonin in soil can create endorphins”, and Willow laughs at how little time she has for gardening nowadays. “If you’re a florist, people assume you 'garden' - if I only had time”.
After interning at Tatler magazine, Willow and her husband moved to France. Inspired by her surroundings, Willow began to collect fabric, ribbons and flowers. Stacked on her desk, eventually her husband asked what she intended to do with it all. Trimming french baskets and hats with pretty ribbons, she began selling them on the beaches of St Tropez. Around this time she started her blog and her now agent got in touch to say, “there’s a book in this”. The Art of Handmade Living - the first of four books - followed shortly after.
She and her husband Charlie moved back to London when Willow was pregnant with her second child. Running a personal shopping service, an ebay business, and writing a blog, it wasn’t until writing a chapter on flowers for her second book, Inspire: The Art Of Living With Nature, she had a Eureka moment. “I realised flowers made me happy, so I enrolled on a week-long course at the (since defunct) Covent Garden flower academy to learn wiring and the basics of floristry”. Shortly after, her best friend asked her to do the flowers at her wedding. Drafting her mum in to help, “we were plucking numbers out of the sky, ok, so how many foxgloves, how many peonies.
Moving to the Cotswolds a few months after arriving back in England, as the family grew so did the business. "Great brands started coming to me, I had incredible clients. I thought I’d die of excitement! I worked on crazy installations and massive weddings”. She is too elegant to name drop the Royal Family. Oh, did we mention the ever-so-casual royal wedding of 2018?
Speaking on the day she won gold for an installation created at Chelsea in Bloom, I ask how she manages her time, does she plan her days? “Oh my boys call me, ‘mad old lady’! I’m always running around very busy, but creating is the thing that makes me happy. I love it. I never sit down, I long to but I don’t. As for planning - I don’t plan, I keep a paper diary as I hate tech with a passion. After hours spent on Instagram and my laptop, I take myself into the woods and decompress.”Style-wise, in her own words, Willow needs to feel ‘comfy’. “I don’t like to wear anything tight. Florals and colour are all over my life; colour brings so much joy and I never wear black. My style is very 70s, and I love floaty dresses, but they have to have sleeves! MABE is the perfect cut for me, and I love low-slashed neck tops that are loose around my body".
As for future plans, there's a weekly newsletter to grow, floristry courses to run, brand collaborations in the pipeline, huge projects with clients all within school hours because she and her husband don't childcare. Naturally imperfect, welcome to the beautifully unplanned world of Willow.