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THEY say January feels like the longest month of the year, but it’s March that we start wondering whether winter might actually last forever. But if you need some reassurance that warmer weather is just around the corner, take a wander through Old Spitalfields Market, where spring has well and...

THEY say January feels like the longest month of the year, but it’s March that we start wondering whether winter might actually last forever.

But if you need some reassurance that warmer weather is just around the corner, take a wander through Old Spitalfields Market, where spring has well and truly sprung at newcomer florist Rebel Rebel.

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There are bulbous tulips, delicate garden roses and bunches of bright yellow daffodils spilling from every corner of the compact unit at the Commercial Street entrance to the market, part of a recent revamp by architects Foster + Partners.

For co-founders and best friends Mairead Curtain and Athena Duncan, this could be a contender for the most wonderful time of the year.

“Right now I’m surrounded by about sixteen vases of Icelandic poppies,” Mairead says. “The blossoms are just starting and peonies will be coming in soon, so it’s all happening.”

But it’s Rebel Rebel’s reputation for bold, creative designs year round that has earned them accounts with the likes of Dior, Selfridges & Co, Nike, and ITV; not bad for a business conceived over too much wine at the kitchen table.

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budding traders: Mairead and Athena

“Athena and I worked together in television, and she was always into flowers,” Mairead says.

“We just got drunk one night at my house and I was playing with a bouquet from my boyfriend, and just started thinking ‘we could do this’.”

The duo began staging flowers for events for the likes of BBC and Channel 4, before establishing their first shop on Broadway Market in 2004. The events continued, and the wedding commissions boomed, but bricks and mortar expansion remained an important part of the business, and they opened the Spitalfields store in November.

“With the popularity of social media I think you could probably get away with not having a physical shop, but it’s an opportunity for people to see your brand, see your work, see what kind of person you are,” Athena says of their decision to open a second shop after all this time.

“We’ve found brides in particular really respond to seeing things in person, how different flowers can work together, and we love having people walk past and talk flowers and give us feedback, which is really important to us.”


For those keen to try their hand at floristry, Mairead says they are looking to introduce their popular hand-tied bouquet workshops to Spitalfields, and already have plans for several events in the lead-up to Mother’s Day. And while practically anybody can learn to craft a bold, beautiful bouquet, the day-to-day running of a floristry business is an entirely different matter.

“You always have someone come in and say they want to be a florist, and after you’ve been up at 4am at the market in the dead of winter you sort of want to poke them in the eye.

“It’s a lot of hard work, and if you don’t really love it you won’t last a minute,”  Mairead says.“Luckily we do.”

Rebel Rebel, Old Spitalfields Market E1 6EW

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