Meet Phillipe Chadwick, Nashville’s favorite LGBTQ floral designer
Phillipe Chadwick's first love is gardening, and what began as an early obsession has grown and evolved into a wide-ranging career—from gardening and horticulture to floral design. Chadwick has become well known for his show-stopping and vibrant, yet elegant and sentimental arrangements and designs. And this is why he has been chosen by our readers in the 2016 Faves & Raves as Favorite Florist.
But the label of florist is complicated by the course of his career and scope of his work. Asking whether he even considered himself a florist invited a complicated response.
Meet Phillipe Chadwick, LGBT Nashville’s favorite floral designeroutvoices.us
“That's a really complicated question for me,” Chadwick responded. “I was always interested in plants and flowers as a child and that interest has only grown as I've gotten older. Since college I have been constantly increasing my knowledge of horticulture. Floral design was inevitable as I am obsessed with flowers. I try to keep it simple and just call myself a florist. My knowledge of horticulture definitely shows in my floral design. So I guess I am a landscape architect turned horticulturalist turned florist.”
His work in horticulture, and the reputation it earned him, rivals work as a floral designer. After the Nashville native earned his degree in Landscape Architecture from Mississippi State University in 2006, he worked as a landscape architect, managing civic designs for the city of Franklin, Tennessee.
In 2009, Chadwick went to work for Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art as a horticulturalist, and sought to elevate the already high standard he found there. He emphasized the need to keep all designs provocative and cutting-edge but at the same time aesthetically pleasing. This spirit breathed life into Cheekwood's gardens, while also working to provide Cheekwood's special events with fresh, bright flower arrangements.
Some work on the side, at first for family and friends, helped Chadwick decide to start his own business and to bring that same emphasis on design to events and venues across Middle Tennessee. “I was working at Cheekwood back around 2012,” he said, “when my brother got married, and I did the flowers for the wedding. It was the first time I had ever done floral design for an event. I remember it being kind of nerve-racking, not knowing what I was doing making bouquets and centerpieces. From there, I did several friends weddings, and it just continued to grow. After a year I had so much business I had to leave Cheekwood.”
Besides striking personal and sentimental cords, Chadwick prides himself on getting people talking, employing his extensive knowledge of plants and flowers to design outside of the box. “I did not start floral design expecting it to become my career: it's just turned out that way. I definitely utilize all of my education and knowledge I have acquired through school and my past jobs. In college I had a strong education in basic design theory, which I use every day. I really focus on color theory and the importance of texture. I was never formally trained as a florist so I have a style of my own. Everything I've learned about floral design has been through trial and error lots error!”
He’s also taught some, and his personal experience, and his push for creative approaches, shines through there. “When I've taught classes in the past,” he said, “I tell my students to try something they wouldn't expect themselves to do: they may not like it, and that's okay! They can always take it apart and make something new.
His designs do have their influences, however. “Lots of my inspiration comes from designers like Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen,” he said. “I follow several Japanese floral designers: they have the most interesting style and form.”
Chadwick has established a strong reputation in Nashville for crafting memorable weddings and impressive visual spectacles for events, including The Antiques and Garden Show, the TPAC gala, and Chukkers for Charity. He has also occasionally hosted Volunteer Gardener on NPT.
For Chadwick, his career highlights are fairly easy to highlight. “I got to design the color garden at Cheekwood,” Chadwick said, “which was always my pride and joy. The Antiques and Garden show has been a huge platform for me to showcase my style and intriguing designs. Several years back I made a tree out of a parachute that was lit internally with projections and all made of fabric. I have had six installations at the Antiques and Garden show and will have one this February. Winning the Best-in- Show award last year at the Antiques and Garden show is a real high point.”
He’s also very excited about his current project, he said, adding, “I have been designing the lobby flowers for the Pinnacle building this year, and I've had a lot of fun showcasing my wild designs.”
So where does he go from here? “I dream very big, and I create on a huge scale. Currently the business is Phillipe S. Chadwick, but my partner, Nick Maynard, and I will soon be launching Electric Flora, where I will still be the lead designer. I am currently looking into a workshop space for myself which I have wanted for years.”
For more information about Chadwick and his designs, and more examples of his work, visit www.hblanddesign.com.