The Botanical Road Trip: Loose Leaf Store

Words by
Georgina Reid
Images by
Georgina Reid
| July 30, 2014

If I were to open a plant shop it would look very much like Loose Leaf, a new-ish plant store, floral studio and workshop space in Collingwood, Melbourne. Of course. Bloody Melbourne! A visit to meet the brains behind the enterprise Wona Bae and Charlie Lawler was high on our list of stops on the road trip. We managed not one but three visits, a meal, and some great planty conversations. Here is one of them…

How did the idea for Loose Leaf come about?

‘It was formulated over many years. When Wona and I got back to Australia after living overseas we started working for other people. It’s hard to see the end gain from this, and we wanted to do something where we could express ourselves fully. Loose Leaf is where we ended up.

It was a long journey. We would have loved to have done it sooner but I am so glad we didn’t. There were many years of experimentation and testing. There are some plants we wont have in here, common plants that everyone has killed. We want people to have a good experience when they leave.

We get quite a lot of people come in here and say ‘I’m terrible with plants. I kill them all the time’. It’s a pretty common story. Its good to try and give them something that will grow.

We discuss the idea that plants are a trend at the moment. I sometimes think they are, hence Planthunter having more than five readers! But I also wonder whether its just because like attracts like. I think it’s probably a combination of both. People are looking for something they can’t get from a screen, a sense of reconnection to the natural world.

I understand you have a background in design and communications and have worked for some big names, including the United Nations. Did it take much for you to jump on board, in terms of your career?

‘I balance my work at Loose Leaf with my design and branding company (Open Season). I spend three days a week at Loose Leaf and four days a week there.’

Hmm. That makes seven days?! You don’t have weekends?

‘Not this year, anyway. We have had two days off this year. I guess that’s what it takes. We love every moment of it and it doesn’t always feel like work. I think we can see that its going to get better and better as time goes on. We have probably done the hardest bit.’

How would you like to see Loose Leaf develop?

‘Our thoughts on that are evolving. Three months ago we thought we would open the space up for events and have more on in here. We have done that a few times and they have been very successful but they are hard work. It changes how we can use the space for a week or two. We are trying to find events that really fit perfectly with the space.

The space is very much about collaboration. We didn’t want to create a retail space. We want people to come in and experience the space. A lot of people from my office come over here and eat their lunch, using it like a winter garden. I like that people can use it like that.

These guys are busy! Wona also holds floristry workshops twice a week in the shop and Charlie and his friend George are working on publishing a journal relating to all things Loose Leaf! The first issue is on mushrooms and should be out rather soon. Yum!

You should visit Loose Leaf!

Tue – Sat (9am – 6pm)
31 Sackville St, Collingwood
[email protected]