A florals-savvy entrepreneur shares how this curious plant inspired her business and why the design world has fallen for the whimsical grass
Words by MELISSA GOLDSTEIN and MARIE LOOK
Aylin Sevgili loved pampas grass before she knew what it was called. “My Google search was: ‘hairy beige plant,’ ‘tall feathery plant,’ ‘Dr. Seuss-like plant,’” she says.
After relocating from Washington, D.C., to Venice last year, she found that sourcing the elusive ingredient was nearly as tricky as nailing down its name. “Anytime I saw it on display — usually in trendy shops or storefronts around Abbot Kinney — I would go inside and talk to the workers only to find out that they had either picked their pampas grass in the wild or ordered it from a florist who could no longer get their hands on any.”
Sevgili’s luck finally turned while she was in Oxnard one weekend to visit a family friend, her father’s former college roommate, and happened upon a bumper crop growing wild in his backyard. After telling him she’d been looking everywhere for the mystery plant, she asked if she could take some home with her. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’m actually trying to get rid of it, but it won’t stop growing back,’” she says. “I asked him if I could sell it for him and he laughed and said sure, almost like he didn’t think it was possible.”
Soon after that, Sevgili launched her Etsy shop (and Instagram by the same name), Pampas People, and discovered a near-insatiable demand for the wrapped and ready-to-ship bundles. With requests coming in from brides, florists, event planners and brand reps, she frequently sells out.
“There’s so much more you can do with it without having to worry about it wilting or getting enough water”
“I honestly think social media plays a major role in the increasing popularity of pampas grass in both weddings and home decor/style,” says Sevgili, who also works at a digital marketing agency. “The growth of the [Instagram] account has been so fascinating to watch because it’s almost like breaking into an untapped and unfamiliar market.”
So what is it about pampas that has the event and design worlds in its thrall? “It’s becoming a popular alternative to fresh flowers … because there’s so much more you can do with it without having to worry about it wilting or getting enough water,” she explains. “The average person who finds it difficult to keep houseplants alive will actually really appreciate the plant for its ‘unkillable’ nature.”
Not to mention the fact that pampas looks captivating in just about any setting. “It’s a showstopper,” Sevgili says. “A beautiful, unique-looking plant that requires no water, no maintenance and zero upkeep? Yes please!”