Studio Visit: Doan Ly on Creativity, Dreams, and Floral Art


"Imagine your dream project—with no limits. What would it look like?"

This is the question Doan Ly wants to be asked more often, but it seems rare that she has time to answer or ask much of anything these days—and that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the Brooklyn-based creative is working around the clock to satisfy her clients' dreams through rich visual storytelling with a distinctive aesthetic that’s culminated in her floral-focused design studio, a.p. bio.

Doan's industrial workspace serves as the perfect backdrop for her expansive prop inventory, complete with a staple blue seamless (widely seen on the studio's Instagram account), eclectic interior objects, and of course, a jaw-droppingly gorgeous selection of flowers. It's a lot to unpack visually, but Doan excitedly took us through some of her inbound deliveries and shared more about how she nurtures her flowers—and her practice—with each project.

— Rachel Schwartzmann

Who are you outside of your profession, what do you enjoy, and what do you value in life?
I'm a Vietnamese American artist living in New York City. I am currently working as a floral designer and photographer, though I have had many different past professions and lives. It's a constant evolution. I enjoy working hard while making creative projects that make people feel delighted or laugh. I value compassion and kindness, eating well, a great sunset on the 7 train, and getting people to act in my short dance videos. That sends me into a little flow bubble of bliss.

Tell us what you've learned about your personal (sartorial) style as a result of your work.
My personal style has evolved to be mostly utilitarian. I used to be very bohemian and romantic—very feminine. I loved dressing up. Now, I work on my feet for up to 17 hours a day. I have long days that might involve site visits, meetings, market runs, and studio work. I need to be comfortable but also put together. I don't have the luxury of going home to change, so I choose pieces that might have a strong silhouette, allow movement, and are feminine but fussy.

What does slow storytelling mean to you, and would you say you implement this idea in your work at a.p. bio?
I'll share my branding path, and perhaps there is an overlap. With a.p. bio, I have used social media as a creative outlet and exercise. I first started by using it as a way to learn photography. I challenged myself to put one post a day, so I could be accountable and not just leave ideas in my head. Each day I would try to learn something new about composition, light, color, about expression. My images were not necessarily related to selling myself as a wedding florist, even though I was trying to support myself as one.

From the beginning, I resisted the traditional branding tropes of my field because it didn't feel like me, like my voice, not that I even knew what that voice was yet. Mainly, I created content that piqued a sense of imagination, whether or not that pertained to what I was supposed to post to get wedding clients. Very confusing sometimes for these clients themselves. I've lost work because of it, I'm sure. But as a result, I've also gained a whole other set of options, from photography to styling, to collaborations. I don't want to be just in one thing. I like the idea of expanding the box.

What have you learned about sustainability—or has how your position changed—due to your work with flowers? How do you think creativity and sustainability intersect?
Creativity is necessary for thinking out of the box. Science and creativity are linked to innovation. We will need it to get out of the fossil fuel trap. While it is crucial to seek sustainable practices on the individual level to break consumer addiction, I think climate change must be solved through policy.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world's bigger conversations? How do you hope your endeavors play a role in this shift?
Creativity is at the core of change and progress. It is that life force that can problem solve, dream up, conjure, and imagine a different [and] hopefully better world. My endeavors are humble. I want to find magic, to bring joy.

How would you advise the next generation of artists to leave an imprint in the world—simply by doing what they love?
Well, I think this question answers itself. Just by doing, you'll leave an imprint. I think the goal should be to learn something about yourself and the world. That's the only control you'll have.