Photography by Cachet Retsos
Sophia Moreno-Bunge is a Los Angeles based floral designer who produces striking and sculptural floral arrangements under the studio name Isa Isa. Often incorporating foraged foliage, local produce, and form-driven clippings, Sophia has a natural eye for colors and textures that reflect LA’s unique seasons (yes, LA has beautiful seasons!). In a world of uptight arrangements, we admire how Sophia is paving her own way with compositions (and a way of life) that feel fearless and limitless.
Sophia has used our vegetable tanned leather Garden Holster for years and it has developed a beautiful patina that comes only with age. Read on to learn more about Sophia’s influences and why taking time to travel, explore and play are necessary to her practice.
Can you tell us a bit about Isa Isa and your journey to become a floral designer?
I studied art in college, with a focus on photography. The last year of school I took a sculpture class and was very inspired to work 3 dimensionally; as a student I did not have a budget, so I would forage found materials around New York City- I ended up finding a lot of tree detritus , and got really into using natural materials. This was the start of it all! Learning about plants and flowers in New York, where I first worked as a florist, was really amazing-following the seasons with our work, excursions upstate and out east. It was one of the most special times of my life.
When working with plants, what comes first—foliage or form? How do you navigate from one to the other or plan for a piece?
It depends. Usually I’m inspired by a material, and they dictate the shape. Sometimes there’s a shape or vision in mind prior to knowing the materials; in this case it’s fun to try to shape the materials into the form I have in mind. The vessels also play a part! I try to work seasonally, often feeling drawn to using materials that are growing locally. Right now for example I’m loving citrus branches, flowering mimosa, magnolia, and wild cucumber vines, which all grow in the Los Angeles area in winter.
What is your favorite flower or plant and why?
There are so many… a big one for me are potted orchids - there are so many varieties, they’re so magical and they grow and rebloom every year in my garden. It’s one of my favorite plants to collect and tend to. I probably have over 50 orchids.
How has your upbringing influenced your approach?
I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, at the beach in LA, so I really love to look around me for inspiration. I’ve spent a lot of time on family farms in Argentina, where my family is from. I’m inspired by the tall grasses of La Pampa, the tropical overgrown plants juxtaposing the city scapes of Buenos Aires, the majestic scale of Patagonia- these all play a part in my work. I also love the casual elegance that I find in many Argentine moments and scenes; it’s also a culture that really values down time, time spent cooking and eating with friends and family, and this all feels very much a part of my work/life approach.
Is there a work-life or personal-life ethos that you stand by?
For me it’s very important to take time off to travel, and be in nature regularly, whether I’m surfing or hiking. I appreciate and connect most with people who have those same values and encourage the people that work with me to take time to explore and play.
Many years ago we worked with you to do flowers for our shop—we witnessed first hand how intuitive your creations were. Now that you have a bigger team, how does that personal intuition translate to working with others?
I love collaborating with my team. Everyone has their own intuition and it’s fun to see how that plays out in everyone’s work. After so long of doing this alone, I got tired of doing it all myself and I really value and get inspired by seeing others' points of views and sensibilities. I’ve enjoyed mentoring people on my team and teaching them my flower language and then seeing them run with it in their own ways. It feels natural to work with others and focus on supporting them to learn and hone in on the best ways to do things (it’s not all about creating designs and color palettes etc , it’s also about learning to work within restraints - what works in a space, what lasts, working with clients etc). Of course I weigh in on most things, and make sure it's aligned with our ethos and style, but everyone that works with me has that in mind, as well.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell myself to really try to worry less by focusing on doing what feels most fulfilling and joyful every day, saying no to things you don’t want to do, and setting really good boundaries. To dive head-in to exploring or dealing with the things you fear, because on the other side of that fear is the possibility for immense peace and growth.
How do you feel, at your age, right now?
Grounded, excited for the what is to come, lots of ideas and dreams growing in my heart.
Sophia owns a Half Moon Garden Holster in Veg Tan leather. Discover more about ISA ISA and also shop the Half Moon Garden Holster at Plant Material