These Women Want to Leave You Wonderstruck

BY Taylor Rebhan

Co-founders Robin Wilson and Chelsea Farrugia use their event and floral design company to harness the power of a moment. Here’s the secret behind Detroit’s Graham Stanton Co.

Think about the last time you felt a sense of awe. Watching a spectacular sunrise of peach and pink hues. Taking in an incredible human feat. Appreciating a quiet spell during a celebration.

Much of what amazes us is fleeting—jaw droppers that can’t be frozen in time. Glory that needs to be experienced to be understood.

That wonderstruck feeling is Detroit-based Graham Stanton Company’s north star. As an event experience firm, they provide both full-service planning and floral design with the goal of creating meaningful moments within beautiful environments.

Think flowers in the ceiling, or greenery suspended midair in an open cathedral. Floral structures that twist and turn unexpectedly. Arches that ebb and flow with a natural grace. And arrangements that are anything but precious—instead, they’re alive with a floral ferocity and verve, looking to seize every moment before their expiration date.

The powerhouse duo behind these designs is Robin Wilson and Chelsea Farrugia, co-founders of Graham Stanton Co. They both have backgrounds in hospitality, service, events planning and design. But they found a secret superpower in each other: Unconformity. “Early on we both experienced having to fit ourselves into certain molds in the industry,” Wilson explains in a recent conversation. “And that really wasn’t us. In partnering together, we can be rock and roll—but with every detail in place.”

In conversation, Farrugia and Wilson weave seamlessly between thoughts and ideas, complementing or finishing one another’s sentences, articulating what the other is thinking before the person on the other side of the table realizes it. Their energy is like lightning in a bottle, or a spark (more on that later).

“To us, design is emotion and experience brought to life in a physical form,” says Farrugia. If a guest has an emotional response that causes them think about an object differently, Graham Stanton’s work is done.

“So much of what we do is to manipulate the guests’ experience in a space in a mental, emotional, and physical way—to take the assumed experience, flip it on its head, warm it up, add a punch of color, surprise and delight with what’s around the corner.”

Whether fresh or preserved, because it’s organic, floral is a challenging medium. Every arrangement has a soul.

“Floral has a lot of feelings about how it wants to be treated,” laughs Wilson. “Sometimes it’s really like a science experiment: How can we meet its needs and wants and manipulate its longevity? How can we play with specific shapes and textures in a specific space we’re working with?”

It’s that finite nature of floral that creates such impact, and it dovetails perfectly with events. Both are ephemeral by nature. Symbolic and celebratory, tangible yet temporary.

“It’s magical to see the sheer physical effort of it all to come together, last for six hours, and just as magically, disappear,” explains Farrugia. It stands in stark contrast to the more permanent, everyday experiences that surround us day in and day out. The effect on the senses and the soul is lasting, a reminder that even the blink of an eye has a lasting effect.

“To us, design is emotion and experience brought to life in a physical form.”

This Valentine’s weekend, step into the flagship Shinola store at 441 West Canfield Avenue and you’ll experience exactly that. Graham Stanton has crafted a signature installation for the holiday, a multi-layered experience that draws you in from the very first steps. Wilson describes it as “A flower treasure hunt—an immersive experience.”

It’s a full circle moment for the co-founders, whose first project together was a Valentine’s installation in Detroit. In the spirit of the holiday, we asked the pair to surprise one another with three meaningful pieces from our charms collection.

And although they didn’t discuss beforehand, to no surprise, they picked the same pieces for each other: The Bolt, the Matchstick, and the Plaque, which they’ll engrave with a mark in tribute to Graham Stanton Co. Suffice it to say that the love and laughter could hardly be contained.

“The Bolt is a no-brainer in terms of personality and brand identity, and the fact that it’s a significant Shinola piece,” Farrugia tells Wilson. “The matchstick is the cheekiest. I connect with having that on my neck or your neck as straight-up mischief. And definitely a spark.”

Wilson picks up that thought and wraps it in a bow, proving that in love and in business, there’s no beating when you’ve found your perfect match: “We are incendiary, and what we want to do and produce together feels like a spark that’s going to burn down the whole world in the best possible way. Our partnership is a catalyst, the way fire is, to further our creativity and break boundaries.”

Stop by 441 West Canfield Street now through Valentine’s Day to experience the floral installation for yourself—and through the weekend, bring home a bouquet for your beau as a gift with purchase on eligible orders. See more of Graham Stanton’s work on their website and follow them on Instagram.

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