See How an Artist Creates 'Hair Gardens' That Fuse Mexican Culture, High-Fashion Millinery and Old Hollywood

If you’ve ever searched for the perfect floral headpiece to wear for your wedding, an event or even just everyday use, look no further than Nathaly Aguilera’s La Casa de Flores – "The House of Flowers." Learn more about how she got her start, where she draws her botanic inspiration from, and her mission to empower women one wearable flower at a time.

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February 12, 2024
A photo of Nathaly Aguilera in a red rose flower crown.

Nathaly Aguilera In Red Rose Flower Crown by La Casa De Flores

Nathaly Aguilera is wearing a red rose flower headpiece that she designed with La Casa De Flores.

Photo by: Israel Palacio / @israelpalacio

Israel Palacio / @israelpalacio

It’s not every day you come across someone who made the conscious decision to turn to art and entrepreneurship after completing an entire master's program. Thanks to a few serendipitous occurrences, Nathaly dropped a career in clinical psychology to follow her calling: creating handmade headpieces under her brand, La Casa De Flores.

But not all is lost when it comes to her background in behavioral and mental health — she simply realized she had a more unique skill set to offer that could contribute to her clients’ mental well-being. Now, instead of helping others via therapy sessions in an office, she incites healthy conversation, sparks joy and boosts confidence in her customers by way of her art. Her pieces are therapeutic to all who enjoy them, herself included.

A photo of a pitcher plant flower crown by La Casa De Flores.

Pitcher Plant Flower Crown by La Casa De Flores

A headpiece featuring a pitcher plant, and green and yellow flowers designed by La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera.

Photo by: Nathaly Aguilera

Nathaly Aguilera

1. Nathaly, when and how did your love for designing wearable pieces begin?

I've always been very handy and creative and started making hair flowers and hairpieces for myself long before starting La Casa de Flores. My love of wearing flowers in particular really started when I was a little girl. My Nana Lola had a huge flowering garden and I loved walking through it with her and helping her water the plants. She'd explain the name of the flower and we'd go through her garden comparing flowers. She only spoke Spanish and this was a special way to engage with her in conversation.

I learned a lot about appreciating the unique beauty of each flower that way, and I still stop to take a detailed look at flowers in very much the same way. She had daisies in her front yard and she'd let me pick one to wear behind my ear. We'd finish each watering with her fuchsia plants, which in Spanish are called "Arretes" and means “earrings.” We'd hang them from our ears and wear them around the house. So the love of wearing flowers started very, very early and has only grown from there.

$12.00

Nathaly's meticulously designed headpieces blossom in delightfully unexpected ways, just like her career. Shop La Casa De Flores on Etsy, or follow Nathaly on Instagram to keep up with her latest drops.

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2. What inspires you when creating your pieces? What influences your designs?

It is truly a fusion of my culture, fashion of the '30 through the '50s, and high-fashion millinery. I grew up with a profound love of Old Hollywood. I was obsessed with Judy Garland [and] through her, I was introduced to other starlets and that cultivated my appreciation of the aesthetic. From flipping through fashion magazines and fashion coffee table books, I discovered the work of milliners like Philip Treacy and Rachel Trevor Morgan, whose work appealed to me because they have a lot of vintage flare. Culturally, my inspiration is deeply rooted in the artwork of Mexican artists like Jose Guadalupe Posada, who made a lot of the iconic Dia de Muertos lithographs, and Frida Kahlo's bold use of color, composition and personal expression. Mexican culture in general is a celebration of color, and I think playful use of color is one of the things I'm known for.

A photo of a skull and venus flytrap flower crown by La Casa De Flores

Skull and Venus Flytrap Flower Crown by La Casa De Flores

A purple and red skull and venus flytrap headpiece designed by La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera.

Photo by: Nathaly Aguilera

Nathaly Aguilera

3. Your creations are an extension of your personal style. Can you describe your personal style for us?

My personal mantra as it relates to fashion is "If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.” I like to say that I can be Snow White one day and the Evil Queen the next. I love expressing myself through fashion and try to tell a story with each outfit. I love mixing eras, prints and textures. In my opinion, styling oneself is a form of art, and whimsical fashion is such a wonderful way to connect with others and spread joy. It is truly a wonderful icebreaker.

For instance, I have a master's in clinical psychology and worked at a therapy-based school through my practicum. The kids at this school had traumatic and emotional challenges that precluded them from being successful in a traditional school setting. They could be pretty hard to form a connection with, but just about every kid on campus complimented me on something related to my wardrobe at some point. Granted, I strategically wore bright colors and novelty prints at the time, but it was a very sweet, genuine way to start a conversation and build rapport.

A photo of Nathaly Aguilera in a yellow flower field.

Nathaly Aguilera In Yellow Flower Field

Nathaly Aguilera stands in a yellow flower field wearing a colorful striped dress and one of her pink floral headpieces.

Photo by: Jackie Lynn / @jackielynnphoto

Jackie Lynn / @jackielynnphoto

4. You've been doing this for more than a decade now. How would you say your style and skill have evolved over the years?

My techniques and style have grown immensely! I have an interesting skill set. I had a fresh flower business with my mother prior to starting La Casa de Flores. It was just a fun thing we could do together and we provided florals for a number of weddings and events. So I learned a lot about color and composition doing that. I grew up with an incredibly handy father who trained as a blacksmith in Mexico, so I picked up interesting engineering and construction skills from him as well. Additionally, I studied formal millinery techniques which inform the fit and function of my work.

When I first started I was making fairly simple flower crowns for Dia de Los Muertos and really only made hair flowers for myself. I started getting brides asking for more elaborate designs and I realized this was a business that had growth potential. I diversified my offerings in my little online shop and was picked up pretty quickly by one of my favorite labels. I could not believe my luck!

In 2018, at the end of my master's program, I felt that I was at a crossroads. Becoming a therapist was a dream I had a singular focus on since high school. However, my business had grown beyond what I imagined and I started to consider that my dream had changed. The question became, do I follow the path that is therapeutic for others, or the path that is therapeutic for myself?

I set a goal for myself to partner with the San Diego Museum of Art on their annual fundraiser, Art Alive, and to pitch a collaboration with one of the top pinup photographers in the world, Susana Clark of Vestige Photography, who happens to live here in San Diego. I told myself that if I could get SDMA to carry my hair gardens during Art Alive and also convince Susana to shoot her models in my florals, I'd know that I should try to pursue my career as an artist. I'm happy to say that my partnership with SDMA is in its sixth year, and Susana is one of my best friends and constant collaborators. So what started as a hobby grew into a passion, and I haven't been able to put it down.

A photo of Nathaly Aguilera in her blue, white floral ship headpiece.

Nathaly Aguilera Models Her Blue, White Floral Ship Headpiece

La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera looks glamorous in a baby blue dress that compliments her elaborate headpiece, which features baby blue and white flowers and a miniature model ship.

Photo by: Susana Clark, Vestige Photography / @susanavestige

Susana Clark, Vestige Photography / @susanavestige

5. With stunning designs and an apparent attention to detail and form, can you share your process when designing and how you choose the materials for each piece?

Each design is unique and a labor of love, I would never sell something I wouldn't personally wear. The process to start each piece is a little different, but it all starts with my flower wall. I have a floor-to-ceiling, 20-foot-long wall of flowers which I use to store all of my floral materials. I organize it in a rainbow so it’s easy to find what I need, but also so I can see the full spectrum of possibilities. Sometimes I'll be inspired by a color, other times a customer will come to me for a commission with a particular source of inspiration which has a number of considerations beyond color. Flowers need to have a variety of textures, sizes and stories. Is this a garden wedding or a tropical affair? How does the customer want to feel: demure, romantic, powerful?

Sometimes collections find me and sometimes I go looking for them. Earlier this year I realized I had never put out an all-black collection because I have black hair, so I seldom think of wearing black flowers. It was a major oversight and gap in many of my customers' collections, and it was one of my most popular collections to date. One of my favorite collections was birthed during the pandemic when I went in search of whimsy and became obsessed with the idea of a Marie Antoinette collection. I looked to history, cinema and high fashion for inspiration. I created elaborate hair gardens with fans, ostrich feathers, small birds, cake, ships, etc. The inspiration is boundless, and certainly one I will revisit time and again.

A photo of La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera's flower wall.

Nathaly Aguilera of La Casa De Flores's Flower Wall

La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera uses this floor to ceiling, 20-foot long wall of flowers to store all of her floral materials for her handmade pieces.

Photo by: Nathaly Aguilera

Nathaly Aguilera

6. You sometimes refer to your pieces as "hair gardens." Does your love for plants translate into your home and everyday life as well?

I think flowers are kind of my soulmate. I decorate my home with floral art, I wear floral prints, I visit gardens, I'll even dine at a restaurant because they have a flower wall — despite having my own! I frequently stop just to look at or take a photo of flowers. I was a little concerned that my love of flowers or creating floral art might diminish by making it my primary focus. That kind of thing often happens when you try to monetize your hobby or passion, but if anything, my love of flowers has just grown.

A photo of a gold and black flower headpiece by La Casa De Flores.

Gold and Black Flower Headpiece by La Casa De Flores

A gold and black flower headpiece designed by La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera.

Photo by: Nathaly Aguilera

Nathaly Aguilera

7. You often drop collections inspired by seasons or holidays. How do you keep designs fresh and original year after year?

It’s a couple of things really. I have a list in my head of collections or projects I haven't been able to execute due to time constraints or a lack of available supplies. So some projects are just sitting and waiting for the right materials. I'm constantly on the hunt for something new I can use in my designs. I also look at my body of work and think about how to revisit old favorites with a twist. I'm currently mulling over a "Dark Marie Antoinette" collection for release next year. Another factor that informs my design is the availability of certain colors of flowers. Some flowers are available year-round, while many are seasonal. This limits the amount that I could use any one color or design which pushes me to continually innovate.

A photo of a green and red tinsel tree headpiece by La Casa De Flores.

Green, Gold and Red Tinsel Tree Headpiece by La Casa De Flores

La Casa De Flores' holiday drops are one of the most magical times of the year, where designs drop on Instagram until they are claimed.

Photo by: Nathaly Aguilera

Nathaly Aguilera

La Casa De Flores' holiday drops are one of the most magical times of the year, where designs drop on Instagram until they are claimed.

8. How do you want folks to feel when wearing one of your creations?

Confident. The feedback I most receive is that customers feel powerful, beautiful and elegant. I have a number of customers who want to support and wear my art and say, "I could never pull that off, I'll just get something small for now,” but year after year I can see their confidence build and their aesthetic emboldened. I can't say that there is a correlation between confidence and wearing smaller or larger flowers; however, the correlation does exist between confidence and wearing the things you want to wear, whatever the size. Knowing that women feel empowered by wearing my art is my favorite part of my job.

A photo of Nathaly Aguilera in a colorful fruit and floral headpiece.

Nathaly Aguilera In Colorful Fruit and Floral Headpiece

Nathaly Aguilera models her statement fruit and floral headpiece, which she wears with a bright green and yellow, banana-patterned dress and a woven bird bag.

Photo by: Susana Clark, Vestige Photography / @susanavestige

Susana Clark, Vestige Photography / @susanavestige

9. What challenges come up when designing or creating your pieces?

Honestly, managing my mental health while running my own business has been my biggest challenge. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and while I have a lot of techniques I use to manage my anxiety, sometimes life and my workload overwhelm me. In bouts of extreme anxiety, I also experience depression and profound feelings of inadequacy. As you can imagine, this slows my production quite a lot and if I'm not mindful about taking care of myself, this can spiral. Over the course of my career as a milliner, I've definitely had to claw my way out of some deep emotional chasms.

Another massive challenge is just running my own business! I am the beginning and the end of every order that comes into my shop, and while I have a deep well of creativity, that is only one part of the equation. I source my materials, do my product photography, manage multiple social media accounts, vend my wares, model my designs, liaise with partners, communicate with customers, develop relationships, identify opportunities, ship my orders, manage my inventory, and a hundred other tasks. It is a lot for one person to manage and stay on top of, especially when I'm only truly accountable to myself. I've honestly never worked harder, and at the same time, I've also never been prouder of my work.

A photo of three pink flower crowns by La Casa De Flores.

Three Pink Flower Crowns by La Casa De Flores

Three pink and purple headpieces designed by La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera.

Photo by: Nathaly Aguilera

Nathaly Aguilera

10. What advice would you impart to anyone who might want to get into designing wearable art?

I would say to find something you're amazing at, identify the competition and expand on what sets you apart. I am certainly not the only floral milliner, but my work does have a distinctive look. I can walk through a sea of beautifully dressed women wearing flowers in their hair and identify my work on sight. It's hard, but one of the keys to success has become standing out amidst the vast online landscape.

I'd also advise that you study a myriad of art forms and different eras of art and design. Immerse yourself in creative spaces, like museums, beautiful restaurants, a street with ornate architecture or a sunset. Creativity, both human-made and natural, is all around us, and you never know when inspiration will strike. I was once unexpectedly inspired by a rainbow breaking through the clouds on a rainy day on my way to the supermarket and came home to make a pastel hair garden with crystalline droplets. Inspiration is everywhere; keep trying new things until you find your path.

A photo of Nathaly Aguilera in a red floral headpiece and dress.

Nathaly Aguilera In Red Floral Headpiece and Red Floral Dress

La Casa De Flores creative Nathaly Aguilera models her red floral headpiece along with a flowy red, floral dress.

Photo by: Renee Palmer / @kettnerandgrape

Renee Palmer / @kettnerandgrape

Visit Nathaly’s Etsy store to purchase one of Nathaly’s wearable art pieces for yourself, and join the flower party on her Instagram at @lacasadeflores.

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