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Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the florist who's turning leftover flowers into wearable works of art

''My artworks had shown me that you really could wear flowers.''

By Mitchell Jordan

Jake Kuit, 26, from Wollongong, NSW, shares his story with Take 5:

Seeing the arrangement of tropical flowers discarded as rubbish was enough to break my heart.
As a florist, I'd spent hours assembling the display for an event.But less than a day later, it was unwanted and being chucked away.
Couldn't we do something with it? I asked myself, thinking that many of the flowers, which were still in prime condition, could be re-cut or repropagated.
Both my parents had instilled a love of the outdoors in me from a young age.
While most kids were playing on their X-Box, I was climbing trees.
Jake wearing one of his headpieces. (Image: supplied)
So to know that there were countless floral displays being disposed of seemed not only a waste, but also disrespectful to nature.
I also felt like I was indebted to nature – it was no exaggeration to say that floristry had saved my life.
Before getting a job in a flower shop, I'd been homeless and living on the streets.
Wasn't there something I could do to make the most of these gorgeous plants?
I started taking home as many of the flowers as I could, and giving them to hospitals and charities, but there were still lots left over.
Then, one day, after looking at the flowers in my apartment, I had an idea.
I began repurposing some of them into fashion items.
Jake's friend, Zain Shah, modelling one of his works. (Image: Walter Zak)
A pink agapanthus became a necklace, while I joined several orange pincushions together to make a Mohawk, and used a banksia as a giant headpiece.
A mate, Zain, modelled some of my creations which were photographed by another friend.
"It's pincushion punk," I joked to Zain, who had the orange flowers on his head just like the famous punk hairstyle.
Sharing the photos on my social media got people talking.
These flowers would have been chucked out, I wrote.
Many were shocked at how wasteful the floral industry could be.
Roses with a twist (Image: supplied)
By then, I was finding even more possibilities.
My artworks had shown me that you really could wear flowers.
On Valentine's Day, there were so many leftover roses that I wove them together into a giant red suit made of chicken wire, which my mate Hamish wore while skateboarding through the city!
Recently, I've returned home to Australia after several years overseas and am itching to get working with our native fauna – especially the Illawarra Flame Tree, which doesn't grow anywhere else in the world.
I like to think my work is changing ideas about beauty.
Something that people might think is fit for the bin really can have a whole other life in it.
If I can turn heads and get people to think more about what they throw out, all the better!

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