Fashion has trends; florals do not. Rather, floral designs always stay classic.
Welcome the ever-blooming world of Mike Hines, 46, who is gay, lives in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood and is the creative director/co-owner of epoch.floral and creative director/owner of Mike Hines Signature. epoch.floral opened in October 2001, and has been going "very well" ever since, he said.
"We've stayed loyal to our brand, kept a tangible reach with new and existing clients. We've evolved as a company [and] as designers," Hines said. "We continue to challenge ourselves, which is most important, especially to me as a creative. The road of creativity is not easy. In fact, it is downright scary. Designers and creatives are collective a vulnerable group and although excited about we do, daily, there is always that sense of failure that keeps us real."
Hines has not had many failures of late.
"In order for our business to keep going at the strength it has over the last 14 years, we've had to endure, always stay brand loyal, take the good with the bad and never stop being uniquely creative," he said. "Our medium to our work is flowers, but our job is much bigger than that.
"We are interior decorators, collaborators, inspirational speakers, consultants, friends and confidants. Our reach is broad, yet we always stay Chicago grounded. I think that coming from a small town as I did and growing up with a certain naivety has helped me tremendously be a better visionary of what is possible and going full force to reach that possible goal."
Hines started in a flower shop in the West Loop, graduated to a high-end retailer of home goods and flowers on State Street and eventually landed in his current 4,000-square-foot design studio in West Town. "Becoming a private, quiet, creative space has been the most beneficial act of our longevity," he said. "We went from doing daily floral arrangements to decorating tents in the desert of Dubai and re-imagining and transforming giant ballrooms in Hawaii. I have leaped into the world of consulting for hotels, corporations and retail.
"I have developed a much needed niche in the world of floral lecturing and demonstration and teaching. We as a company have taken on projects we never thought we would see to completion and ultimately succeeded in our vision and beyond with many happy clients. If we weren't constantly evolving yet keeping the same ethics and brand, we wouldn't be here today."
epoch.floral will be under the spotlight at the 8th Annual Iron Designer Competition on June 9 at The Colour Republic Floral Theater at the International Floriculture Expo at McCormick Place. The competition features leading floral designers in a light-hearted challenge that will test the limits of their skills and creativityJackie Kling of epoch.floral is one of the nine competitors. This year's theme, "Fusion of Produce and Floral," celebrates IFE's collaboration with United Fresh and for the first time, designers will be challenged to incorporate fresh produce into their floral designs. Competitiors will choose from an array of fresh cut floral and fruits and vegetables to create an innovative display that celebrates color and flavor.
"The IFE originally asked me to participate as an Iron Designer. I turned them down, basically because I am past my time of competing," Hines said. "Honored with the request, I submitted Jackie's name for consideration and they approved the request."
Kling has been with Epoch for about three years.
"I needed a strong designer to come in and blast off because I was leaving for three weeks to Hawaii with my team to work a big, 800-person, two-week event on multiple islands for one of our corporate clients," Hines said. "Jackie had three days to learn our brand/design and she was basically left alone to run the show here in Chicago. She kicked ass, got the work done with ease and expertise and the rest is history. She is a big asset to us in so many ways. She has a husband, Steve, who works on the wholesale side of the flower business and two teenage girls. Jackie is a warrior and for that and her artist background I am most grateful. With every relationship there is trust and respect, and we have found both in the talented Jackie Kling."
Hines said he was "honored" to be have been asked to be a part of the IFE event. "When I first started in the flower business I was named one of America's Best Floral Designers by the Floral Council of Holland. I will never forget that honor. Thus, with the IFE taking note of Epoch and its accomplishments in this industry, I again am humbled and honored. With every honor, award or decoration Epoch receives, we are exposed to new clientele from all over the world. That, again, is what keeps us as a growing and [an] exciting company to watch, work with and ultimately be a part of."
Hineswho stresses that epoch "are designers at heart with a long reach, [not just] a flower company"said there are plans in the works for a miniseries of sorts on YouTube coming this summer, along with a scent and care line for men and their facial hair, and maybe a book as well.
"We will be forever challenging ourselves to be better, more creative, more vulnerable and forever timeless," he said.