We had coffee with well-known floral designer and entrepreneur, Amanda Luu, after her appointment in our San Francisco Color Bar. We are so inspired by Amanda’s talent and drive, and wanted to find out all about her journey, and how investing in herself helps her feel her best.
But first, the color! In her late 20’s, Amanda had never colored her hair, and had a prominent streak of gray she thought she’d try to cover while adding subtle warm tones to the rest of her hair. We used Radiant Cream Color in Venezia Brown 4NGV to get her gorgeously glossy color, and then chatted about how she got to where she is today…
Four years ago Amanda quit her marketing job to pursue her passion—floral design. She teamed up with friend Ivanka Matsuba, and together they created the now popular Studio Mondine. In just a few short years, their floral design studio has grown an audience of over 50k followers on Instagram, and they host workshops throughout the year that attract attendees that fly in from out of state to participate.
How did you get started in the floral industry?
I actually studied math and business in school. My parents are immigrants, so growing up there was a lot of emphasis on the “practical things.” I switched into behavioral sciences for a bit, which mystified my parents entirely, but nonetheless I worked a very left-brained marketing job after graduating.
It wasn’t long before I started to feel there was a part of myself that had atrophied. At the time I thought if there's a time to grow and fail, it’s now. Six months later, I quit my job.
Ivanka and I met while we were both freelancing. Both of us felt like outsiders— Ivanka had just come to the country and was still learning English; I felt incredibly insecure about not having a formal education in floral design. We found we had a shared aesthetic that leaned towards a style inspired by Japanese ikebana, working in palettes that were a bit more simple, minimal, nothing too fussy or overdone.
Eventually we teamed up on a handful of editorial jobs, and it more or less took off from there. We decided to create Studio Mondine, and we’ve worked together ever since.
It must have been scary to quit your job and start your own business. Is there anything stand-out that you’ve learned in the process?
I’ve come to realize that the people I looked up to when I was younger as “having it all together” really didn’t. As I’ve gotten older, every stage in life has felt like a “destination”, except I never really “arrive”—we’re all constantly in a state of flux, moving on towards the next thing in life. So I’ve learned that all those people I looked up to that “had it figured out” were also just as much in flux as I am. At the end, I think it’s really about waking up and being at peace with the fact that it’s ok if you don’t have everything completely figured out. And that’s something I still struggle with from time to time—when I get scared, I want to control things and control the narrative. But really, it's about meeting that anxiety with kindness and gentleness.
Well said! Our CEO, Amy Errett, recently talked to us about the importance of “enjoying the journey.”
Yes! There is no destination. And I think that can still be hard for me sometimes. I tend to be a very black and white type of person, but I’m learning to embrace grays— except not literally! Hence I’m here coloring my hair today (haha)!
What makes you feel your best, most confident self?
Investing in self-care has made a huge difference for me. It’s not something I’ve ever prioritized until recently. Simple things, like creating little rituals, sheet masks on Sundays, or even just catching up with a friend over a mani-pedi— those sorts of things. I always felt they were out of reach for me; they felt too indulgent, like I didn’t deserve them.
But there was a big shift for me in the last year or so. Making these small investments in myself and treating my physical body with kindness is new. I tend to very much be a “brain” floating in a body—so lately it’s been about spending time to be inside my body and experience my body. I think this helps me feel more rooted and more balanced.
What was it about flowers that drew you in?
It’s a bit cliché, but it really is about that “stop and smell the flowers” mindset. I think when we actively bring flowers inside our homes and spaces, that's really beautiful. There's a ton of poetry in that. Even a simple sprig or stem by your bedside sets the intention, the tone. I feel that's the most powerful thing—the idea of stopping everything, taking the time to make the space special, beautiful.
What has your mom taught you about beauty?
Literally nothing! But I’m happy about that. She’s very low key, has never colored her hair even. She’s always been very practical, and very natural; almost a bit earthy.
But I guess the number one lesson she’s taught me is really about being more intentional, and having integrity. I’m not sure that really applies to “beauty” as we might traditionally think of it, but I guess she doesn’t want to be anything but herself. I feel that way, too. It’s about getting down to the pure essence, and not over-decorating things.
Now that sounds similar to your approach to flowers...
Yes, it really is less about making something that’s super prettied up, and more about being simple, and striving for an “as it is” aesthetic.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that there is no destination. I think if I knew that earlier it would have been a lot more freeing. Invest in the journey.
We’re all just waiting to do what we really want to do, but I think you just have to jump in and do it instead of waiting for the perfect moment. For me, the fear of missing out on my life was more terrifying to me than the fear of failure or looking stupid. At the end of the day, you have to decide to give up that fear of what others will think of you.
We couldn’t agree more. Thanks Amanda, for not only inspiring us with your floral designs, but with your confidence and philosophy.