Karissa Ruano of Flor Del Soul Dresses Up D.C.
April 20, 2023 @ 3:00pm
Karissa Ruano from Flor Del Soul dresses up D.C. with her florals and as a social worker, she gives back to her community. Soon, she’ll mix the two.
There’s more to floral than meets the eye. Plant lovers everywhere know this, but it’s especially true when it comes to Flor Del Soul (FDS). Even without a brick-and-mortar storefront, this D.C.-based, Latina-owned floral brand has its finger on the pulse of the city.
Whether it’s wedding arrangements, brand activation shoots or designing installations for small businesses, FDS prioritizes locally sourced product and bespoke service for every client. You may recognize their plants and dry floral from their time at Femme Fatale DC or above the main bar at Hill Prince on H Street.
But don’t mistake breadth for aimlessness — FDS owner Karissa Ruano is intentional about every move she makes. While meandering through the fragrant aisles of Potomac Floral Wholesale in Silver Spring together, it’s clear that Ruano has a keen eye for detail. She zeroes in on a bin of flowers, carefully sorts through stems, then holds one up to the light. If she likes it, we keep walking.
I couldn’t tell one flower from the next. I’d have been happy with any of them in a vase on my windowsill. But Ruano — who’s working on sourcing product for an upcoming project — thinks five steps ahead. She considers how a fresh flower’s color and size will change when dried (Ruano dries all of her own product). She thinks about the overall symmetry of the installation, and how long certain floral species hold up compared to others. She even keeps a mental tab on how much chicken wire she needs for arrangement mechanics; she picks up a new pair of shears before we carry all her picks to the check-out counter.
All the while, Ruano explains that as a full-time federal worker, she picked up floral as a creative outlet.
“My academic and corporate background in social work have definitely shaped the vision for Flor Del Soul,” she says. “We’re intentionally centered around our greatest asset, the community. Our projects are fundamentally similar to social work practice; we work to normalize floral design, identify creative opportunities to provide access to floral experiences and in advocating for diversity in the floral industry.”
Growing up, her home was filled with flowers (and music — Flor Del Soul also has its own Spotify page that offers the same curated moods and mindsets that inspire Ruano’s visual design). So when she felt the need to create things with her hands, floral was an organic option.
In the years since, Ruano says she has, “expanded a part of [her] mind.” She’s taught herself everything from using basic geometrics to optimize the Instagram-worthiness of a bridal bouquet, to the secrets for keeping vase arrangements picture perfect. (Hint: make one side front-facing so the arrangement looks elaborate and photograph-ready.) And I’m not spilling secrets here — Ruano wants floral, something often thought of as a luxury, to be more accessible to everyone.
This is largely why the business’s DMs are flooded — like a true social worker, improvisation and experiential learning are the name of Ruano’s game. Flor Del Soul has held Instagram pop-up sales in the past and plans to host floral workshops starting this year in communal spaces.
But Ruano also wants people to know that she’s “not here to monopolize.” While Flor Del Soul is currently run by her and her sister Jenni, she hopes to one day establish a co-op and add a non-profit arm to give back to the community. Ruano and her friends have organized school supply and food access drives for D.C. residents in the past, and in the years to come she hopes to elevate the total funds raised for food access in the city.
You can shop Flor Del Soul arrangements and merch at shopfds.com, and stay up-to-date on upcoming workshops and pop-ups by following @shop.flordelsoul on Instagram.
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