A day in the life of… Marion and Pauline, founders of Herbarium

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A day in the life of… Marion and Pauline, founders of Herbarium

One is in Paris, the other in London, both are fascinated with retro herbariums and rare plants. One day, Marion and Pauline Ruilhat decide to leave their respective careers – Marion in finance, Pauline in fashion – to launch Herbarium, their cute little botanical company that finds and frames unique flowers from around the world. Simple and elegant, their creations are perfectly in sync with the current trend for natural chic, with a symbolical twist: the girls group their flowers around spiritual themes, such as “fortune and protection” or “purity and innocence”. The two Parisians, who arrived in the city at eighteen years old after living in Denmark and Belgium, celebrate the beauty of artisanal work by giving beautiful plants the protection and exposure they deserve. We follow them for a day, in Paris and London! 

10am : Both in Paris and London, the two sisters are coffee fans – their day starts with one or two steaming cups. In London, Marion, 29 years old, has her coffee in her Notting Hill home, the pretty West London neighbourhood she’s been living in since 2012. After working in finance for several years, she suddenly realises she wants to do her own thing… One day, while decorating her apartment, she thinks back to her childhood passion for herbariums – the girls’ mother used to collect them.  As she is struggling to find ones she likes, she decides to make her own. When her sister Pauline, 27 years old, comes to visit her for the weekend, the idea suddenly comes together:  “We both got talking about herbariums and botanics and got carried away, that’s where it all started,” she remembers. “We were so excited that we cancelled all our weekend plans!” laughs Marion. “We spent two days working on the idea. It was during spring, and all the trees in Notting Hill were flowering, as if nature itself was telling us to go for it!”


11.30am : The duo chooses the flowers for their herbariums. “It was very DIY at the beginning, we would just go off into nature with our scissors!” remember Marion and Pauline. “But we quickly realised that we couldn’t get enough plants on our own to satisfy the growing demand…” They now work with dedicated suppliers with whom they select fresh plants, concentrating their efforts on the composition of the herbariums: “The idea behind our project was to rejuvenate and modernise herbariums. We want a graphic result: we tried out loads of different combinations before establishing our first collection. We pick plants according to our instant preferences, then play around with them until we find a composition that seems modern enough to us.”

The plants are also picked for what they symbolise: Marion and Pauline studied the language and signification of plants so that they could group them according to their different meanings. “Fortune and protection”, “Eternal love”, “Purity and innocence”… “We wanted to show the poetic side of the language of plants,” they explain. “More than just a visual pleasure, we want our herbariums to resonate with each owner, so they can become part of their home like a lucky charm.”


2pm : Time to press the flowers! The two sisters regroup all the plants, put them in the press, then leave them for two to eight weeks  depending on the species. Once the plant has released all its water, they take it out of the press and stick it on a sheet of paper. During production, the girls spend mornings and early afternoons gluing the flowers to the paper, in order to have good natural light. “Each plant requires its own technique,” Marion explains. “We use different glues, everything is done by hand, you need to be patient and meticulous. Some plants can only be manipulated with metal tweezers.”

4.30pm : If the girls are together, Marion makes them both a banana milkshake to boost their energy. “If we have a bit more time, the milkshake turns into a fresh juice en terrasse with our friends!” she adds. They try to make the most of their flexible schedule, and often take breaks to find inspiration in art galleries or museums. “It’s super important to keep your mind open,” says Pauline, who trained in fashion at the Chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne. The former designer, who worked alongside Guillaume Henry at Carven, hasn’t completely let go of her fashion background: she has just moved to the Haut Marais in Paris, and discovers the area by taking cheeky shopping trips! “I recommend Tom Greyhound, the unmissable boutique on the rue de Saintonge that stocks established as well as up-and-coming designers, and Empreintes, a concept-store that specialises in beautiful handmade items.”


6pm : After a day of working with the plants, it’s time for Marion and Pauline to relax. In London, Marion often has dinner at Cocotte, a chicken rôtisserie on Westbourne Grove: “It’s delicious, the side dishes are amazing and the place is beautiful and relaxed. It’s the perfect restaurant for dinner between friends.” In Paris, Pauline likes going for drinks at cosy boutique hotels, like Hôtel Edgar or Hôtel Providence. If they are together, the two sisters talk about the evolution of Herbarium, which has only been gaining popularity since its creation in December 2016. “There is a real interest nowadays for anything botanical,” they think. “We believe this general interest is due to wanting to go back to simplicity, to connect with concrete, simple and heart-warming objects.” Marion and Pauline see this as a global realisation that consumers need to change their buying habits to be more respectful to the planet. “To buy more but better, understanding where and how the products are made.”