bodega rose interview main
Krista Schuleter

There’s a sense of pride that comes with maintaining plants. It’s almost like a coming-of-age accomplishment — you sign the lease, you buy a couch, and while you might not be prepared for the responsibility of keeping a pet alive, opting for plants to accent your crib gives you something to care for other than yourself.

That’s not all that comes with it, though. And while it really is a responsibility, plants can also have a personality of their own depending on what you pot them in and where you decide to place them in your home. It’s only natural when everything you own is representative of your personal style that your plants should be, too.

Plant designer Olivia Rose’s Bodega Rose offers just that. As well as making her own merch, the New York City native has long been fascinated by the plant life of the city, viewing it almost as a luxury in an otherwise concrete landscape. That’s where bodega flowers come in — a bright spot on most city corners, flower-laden bodegas are a regular source of color and life among the city grind.

bodega rose wants to make her plants feel good while you feel good about growing them
Travis Libin

Rose specializes in taking regular, albeit well-loved and coveted, objects and recreating them as receptacles for potting plants. Most popularly recognized for its Nike basketball and Air Max planters, Bodega Rose’s flora-focused creativity has landed the designer projects and collaborations with Nike, Gypsy Sport, Umbro for a pop-up in Japan during this year’s World Cup, and a multiple-week residency during the 2018 Warm Up summer festival at New York’s MoMA PS1.

We sat down with Rose to get the story on how she came up with the idea for her planters, her background with plants, and what’s next for Bodega Rose.

Where did the idea for Bodega Rose come from?

Bodega Rose happened very naturally. I grew up in the city. I have always been creating art. Even from a young age, I’d do three to four hours of art a day. I wanted to escape the city when I was old enough to go to college.

I always had an interest in plants in the way that they’re this very intentional thing that exists in the city. It’s the most designed object we have — plants have a lot of barriers to overcome to be a part of the city.

I studied landscape architecture at Cornell University. When I came back, I started working in more traditional spaces. I kind of was always working on the side, making my own art for fun. I remember it just kind of happened through making fun things and putting them on the internet. I saw that people were really resonating with the voice and the idea of plants as urban characters. I played in that sphere and it got a lot of attention.

Johny Knapp
Johny Knapp
Sara Wass

So when did you decide to put a name on it and move forward?

Well, I have passion for making merchandise. [Laughs] At my house, I’m set up to print and make shirts or anything I want. For a while, every day I’d wake up and make a new T-shirt or something to wear with new graphics.

I realized I needed to have a fun and creative name for what I was doing. So I did a little design. I spent like 10 minutes doing it and people were immediately asking if they could buy them. They loved it. I was like, alright, I guess this is the name. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it.

bodega rose wants to make her plants feel good while you feel good about growing them
Krista Schuleter

The name is derived from bodega plants then?

The name really just came from the idea of where the most accessible flowers and plants come from, but kind of understanding their value. For a lot of people in New York, seeing flowers on the side of the street, like on the corner, kind of becomes their botanical gardens. Their most viewed flowers are just on the corner right there.

I wanted to play with the idea of accessibility in your neighborhood that’s beautiful and can transport you to someplace else. It’s kind of where your patch of green lives, on these corners that have all these crazy flowers from Colombia, Ecuador, and they’re blossoming and have a permanence. It’s like an everlasting burst of flowers.

What’s the direction behind the objects you’re using as planters?

There’s a few reasons why I was drawn to putting plants in ordinary or common items. My concept for Bodega Rose is to make plants as exciting for people as new sneaker drops. It’s playing on and being cheeky in that type of culture.

It’s really exciting for me to see younger kids excited about getting my plants in these shoes or basketballs, and they’ll ask their parents if they can have one. Then they want to take care of the plant and it teaches them responsibility. That is something that interests me — trying to bridge that gap between those two worlds because they’re so disconnected.

I’d like to make plants a contender in the fashion world. You know, treating the plant almost more anthropomorphically. If a plant was a person, why would it wear this ugly pot? It wouldn’t. If you were a plant, you wouldn’t wear some shitty plastic planter. Say everything in your house is a designer good, why would your plant not fit in with everything else? It should be a reflection of your style and your taste.

I’m taking these common objects and developing them in a way using material and treatment that fortifies them as something special. People treat sneakers like they’re gold, so why don’t I create that? [Laughs] And then put a plant in it.

bodega rose wants to make her plants feel good while you feel good about growing them
Sara Wass

What is it about plants that makes you want to make them more accessible?

Everything in your apartment, besides like a roommate or a pet, is non-living. Everything is essentially dead. I think it’s really important for people to have life inside the place they’re living. It’s not healthy to be surrounded by cold objects all the time.

The plants give off something that makes me very happy. I think it helps to connect people to the world outside themselves. Plants are also a very visual representation of cycles. There are periods when your plant might not be looking so good and then it’s having a good moment, and there’s something about that that makes you feel good about yourself, too.

In other news, “Young Thug as Paintings” started as a meme and now it’s at Miami Art Week.

Words by Rae Witte