During the course of our long winters, it’s more than just warmth and sunlight we miss. Our sensory affair with the great outdoors is muffled through the frozen months and, while the land is now thawing, life is not yet bursting forth.
Next week, Fleurs de Villes is arriving in Edmonton and with it will comes a visual and olfactory feast. The blend of nectars and life in the air is intoxicating when walking into a flower shop or garden centre, so an entire fashion show of fresh flowers and a pop-up flower market will be a welcome April treat.
“We are only as good as the florists we work with,” says Karen Marshall, who co-founded the exhibition and competition with longtime friend and creative partner Tina Barkley in 2015.
Fleurs de Villes premiered last year in Victoria and Vancouver and found enough success to demand a cross-Canada tour, the first of its kind. Space in shopping malls in five Canadian cities will be set aside for Fleurs de Villes, which will present 15 mannequins ‘dressed’ completely with fresh flowers by some of the best floral designers in each city. The mannequins are judged by a panel in categories such as most original and most realistic. Guests will vote for a people’s choice award, and the participating florists will also judge among themselves.
“No one knows how much work and how much detail goes into these like the florists,” says Marshall.
Cory Christopher, originally from a Sturgeon County farm where his parents had a garden centre, studied theatre and business at Queen’s University before returning home and starting his own design company. He will be participating here and is excited not only for the creative challenge, but to bring some attention to the under-celebrated art of floral design.
“There is really an art to it, and there is the design component, and if you look to Europe in particular, their approach to floral design is so unique … they’re so open to the idea of using unique materials and being inventive,” Christopher says from his downtown studio. “There’s this sort of idea in North American culture of, ‘flowers go in a vase.’ And it really stops there.”
All designs are submitted for approval ahead of the exhibition to ensure there’s variety, and facilitate florists being paired with sponsors, although nothing dictates where the creativity is capped. Already, mannequins have appeared wearing a lacy, barely-there clematis and ivy negligee, full gowns of roses, $10,000 worth of orchids, and one florist even removed the mannequin’s legs and put it in a moss boat.
“You get a real variety and I think that’s what makes it compelling for people to go because they see these structures as art and the florist will use a flower in a very unique way to showcase the flower’s best properties as well,” says Marshall, adding one of the stipulations is that florists must return and keep their designs looking fresh for the entire five-day run.
Christopher and his team will be creating a wedding gown, and he’ll be using succulents in his design.
“I love them because they’re so architectural,” he says. “I often encourage people to replant them so they’ll grow. I just love that extension of life past that one moment of the floral design.”
While this approach will also extend the longevity of his dress, Christopher appreciates the intrinsic and unique quality of working with flowers over any other medium.
“Floral design is a temporal art, it is meant to be enjoyed in those brief moments and it’s supposed to fleet and disappear … I think that’s so pivotal about it,” Christopher says. “That’s what Mother Nature does every day, she gives us these beautiful gems and then she takes them away. And I think the reason for that—and it’s a deeper philosophical point around that—is the idea that to truly be appreciated, those things they have to disappear.”
Wed., Apr. 19 to Sun., Apr. 23
Fleurs de Villes