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Moxom & Whitney interview

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This interview has been edited for flow and clarity.

OoT: We’re at gorgeous, Canberra florist Moxom and Whitney with owners Lou and Belinda doing a Rosie the Riveter photo shoot to prove that We local businesses Can Do It during the COVID lockdown! So tell us, how has Moxom and Whitney been affected by the pandemic? What’s changed for the good or bad?

Lou: The down side is we miss the people because we’ve had to close the shop front. I love people and I miss that contact. That and we lost a lot of all of our wedding clients.

Belinda: Getting the flowers is harder now too. Flights are cancelled, which means we can’t get shipments from places like Equador and Columbia.

Lou: A lot of orchids and roses come in from overseas, and we used to get them weekly, so that’s a huge change.

OoT: So what do you fall back on? What sort of flowers do you have at the moment?

Lou: Local Sydney and Melbourne growers. So if they close the borders, we’re pretty stuffed because we don’t have a lot of local growers in Canberra. We’ve got a few, but then we wouldn’t have a lot of diversity and variety. So we just wait and see. Every day is different. And you have to change to fit, but everybody has, haven’t they?

OoT: Absolutely.

Belinda: And everyone has been really good because they realise that we’ve narrowed our options in the store. So when they’re saying, “We want peonies”, which aren’t in season locally and we can’t get them sent, they’re being more accepting and happy to explore some alternatives. People have been really good.

Lou: Mostly. Some say, “What have you got that’s similar?” and we always say, “Look in the mirror and tell me what’s similar to you and that will be your answer”. Nothing is similar to you. Every flower is bespoke. Every human is bespoke. So it is what it is, you know?

OoT: Do you have some really sweet, touching stories about orders that have come in?

Lou: There are a lot of people who are paying it forward, supporting local businesses. There’s actually an order – she makes us cry this woman – she’s one of our suppliers and she can’t get flowers to us because of the drought. It nearly annihilated her crops, so she’s out of business but then she was worried about us because of COVID. So she’s been putting in orders for us to randomly send flowers to people as a way to pay it forward. Is there anything more touching than someone who’s lost their source of income but is worried about us? So we’re going to send them to the hospital…

Belinda: …just to thank the doctors and nurses in there.

OoT: Wow, that is a great story!

Lou: Then we had another one the other day.

Belinda: Ah, this is a sad one. A man whose son had passed away unexpectedly and he couldn’t go and see him because of travel restictions. His wife was out of the country and just came back. She needed to be isolated for 14 days, so he couldn’t even be with his wife to mourn and the flowers were to go to him, to his home. And Lou walked into his garden and it was filled with roses.

Lou: I had no idea at that point what the flowers I was delivering were for because we don’t write or read everybody’s cards.

Belinda: So she’s taking him these flowers and says, “You don’t really need these. Look at all your beautiful roses!” And then he explained the story about how his son passed away. They were crying together. Then he cut some roses from his garden for her.

Lou: So all you want to do is hug someone at a time like this. And he was desperate and no one had been able to hug him and his son had died and there he is giving me flowers and, you know, it just…

OoT: Everyone is trying to share love in a way but they can’t do it physically, so they do it with flowers.

Lou: Exactly. We are the only industry – we laugh about this – we are the only industry that celebrates hatches, matches and dispatches. And every emotion that goes along with them. And then you put COVID on top of it and it’s…look, I know this sounds really weird and I know it’s a horrible time for everyone, but I actually think that humans are being kinder and more beautiful to each other. I feel like this is a massive test and we’re winning. We’re winning the battle. Just the kindness and people just loving you for bringing them anything to their door and saying “Hi”, because they can’t see anyone.

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OoT: And what about local businesses? Have you found that businesses have been coming together and trying to figure out a way forward?

Lou: Yeah. Absolutely. We are working really heavily with Bison at the moment. And the guys at Enigma Chocolates…

Belinda: Stewie.

Lou: Frugii next store, their coffee is…oh my goodness. He is captain Willie Wonder. Anybody who’s open you need to support because they’re open because they have to be, you know? Also, it’s kind of nice being called ‘essential services’ now. You know we are when you think about it. Who else is? Police, health workers – Belinda’s an ex-nurse.

Belinda: Police are definitely still essential.

Lou: But now we are essential too! It’s like, game on love.

Belinda: It’s funny to talk about it with the people at the checkout at Woolies. Like, “I’m essential and you’re essential. We’re both essential services!”

Lou: Yeah. It’s beautiful and everyone is saying thank you and I love it. I think we’re going to come out of it as better people.

OoT: Beautiful.

Lou: All humans. Because it doesn’t, what’s that word? What’s that word? When you pick somebody out, it doesn’t…

Belinda: Segregate.

Lou: No.

Belinda: Discriminate.

Lou: Thank you. It doesn’t discriminate, does it? We’re all…

OoT: We’re all affected.

Lou: We’re all affected. Every single human on the planet.

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OoT: We sure are. Now, tell us the first impressions of your scarves. Belinda, you’ve got Katie Eraser, in orange, black, aqua.

Belinda: I love block colors and this caught my eye. I usually go straight to navy, blues, that kind of thing. But this one, I just really like the boldness of it. It’s pretty unusual for me.

Lou: It is. And considering you’re colour blind as well.

OoT: Really?

Belinda: Yeah, one of the very few women. Colour-blindness is much more common in men.

OoT: And what about you Lou? Why did you choose your scarf?

Lou: It’s just crazy color for me. Anything red or orange is “Get it in my face!”. I love it. I love, love, love, love love.

OoT: Okay, last question. How could you use the One of Twelve scarfs to style flowers? Thinking outside the box.

Belinda: So many ways!

Lou: You could turn one into a bow. You fold it into another flower and put real ones around or inside it…

Belinda: Imagine starching them!

Lou: Yes. Starching them and wrapping them around a bouquet! That would be amazing.

Belinda: And then you could wash the starch out and have your scarf.

Lou: Or you could put it in between the cellophane.

Belinda: Yeah, as wrapping paper.

Lou: Scarfs are my life. Every day is a scarf.

Belinda: I never actually thought one would suit me until now.

Lou: I told you. I told you. I told you. It’s how it was put on. Those colors are beautiful. Were these designed by female artists?

OoT: Both the ones you chose were! Katie Eraser and Jakayu Biljabu.

Lou: I love that they have stories. I love Aboriginal stories. I think they’re awesome.

Moxom & Whitney can be found in Londsale Street Braddon, Canberra but please check out their website to order or give them a ring on 0477 888 805.

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