Born in the French Alps, David Jayet-Laraffe moved to London in 1998 following his A Levels to work in the restaurant business and improve his English. The restaurant (what was then Abbay) opened a new site on Canal Street in Manchester where he relocated. He fell in love with the city and discovered a love for flowers, training in floristry at Wythenshawe College. His first job was for renowned British floral designer Jane Packer whose clients included Claridges and Gordon Ramsay restaurants.
Nine years ago, David decided to go it alone and begin his own floristry business from a warehouse in Salford Quays, opening FROG, his Northern Quarter shop, three years later. No longer solely a retail space, it now operates on an appointment-only basis, with seasonal flower schools run by David and his team of trained florists. He is beginning to make his mark nationally and is one of only four florists competing for the best festive display on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas on Channel 4 next week. His quirky and exotic designs have also found a home at A Most Curious Wedding Fair where he is styling, exhibiting and sponsoring the event.
What got you started in your field of work?
I have always been creative. When I worked in restaurants I would take home their old flowers and create my own displays for myself and close friends. It was only when one of them said I was actually any good and suggested I consider it more seriously that I looked into studying floristry. I went to college and loved it so that was that.
Who have been the biggest influences on your work?
In floristry, definitely Jane Packer. She was a great school to learn from. I get inspiration from most forms of art, photography and fashion. I love to be creative. I’m a bit of a free spirit and originally wanted to be a fashion designer which I get from my Mum who used to get changed five times a day.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Having the business itself. I employ three full time and up to five freelancers at a time depending on the job, so I’m very proud of that. Plus winning two gold medals at the Dig The City festival in 2014. Being recognised for what I do in Manchester meant everything to me.
What does your typical day involve?
An early start, about 7am, when we come in and receive our flower deliveries. Our main exporters are from Holland where they have the best flowers, with more exotic flowers arriving from Kenya, South America and Singapore. I check my emails and then we are out in Manchester arranging displays in shops like Selfridges and Vivienne Westwood. I have appointments and consultations scheduled in at the shop, often with brides, although clients do vary considerably. I work until about 6pm, normally six days a week, more if needed.
And how do you relax on your days off?
With a nice bottle of Malbec. I like to eat out, watch Netflix, see friends, go for the odd hike. All with the bottle of Malbec.
What is the best advice you have been given, or can give?
If you’ve got something you want to do, if you are passionate and you work hard, you will succeed. Believe in what you’re doing and have passion.
If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?
In the fashion industry, visual merchandising, something creative with a platform for display. I’m not really a nine to five person and I’ve never worked in an office.
Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear
Each year at Christmas from about the age of eight, I would perform a ribbon routine for my family to Lionel Ritchie’s Ballerina Girl. Eventually they got bored of it but I think it deserves a comeback one day.
Red or Blue?
I’ve never watched football but I would have to say Red as I was acquainted with a few of the United players from my restaurant days in Manchester.
Name your three favourite places in Manchester
I love Evelyn’s Café in the Northern Quarter as it’s so relaxed with fantastic plants all around. Also Evuna, again Northern Quarter, but I love to meet friends there for a few tapas and they have great wine. And The Whitworth Gallery as there’s nothing else like it here. You could be in any major city in the world.
If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?
The bin problem, especially around here. It’s dirty and the council really need to address this.
And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?
The people are so friendly and I’ve always felt at home here. And they know how to throw a party.
See David on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas on Wednesday 21 December at 8pm, Channel 4.
A Most Curious Wedding Fair 18-19 March 2017, The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.