Fleurs de Villes began as a seed of an idea five years ago in Vancouver, Canada with two friends, Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley, sharing their love of flowers and layering that love with their marketing savvy. With a fresh idea to rethink the traditional flower show model, they created Fleurs de Villes in 2016. Since then, Karen and Tina have brought their passion for sharing local floral talent to 23 cities in 4 countries, showcasing the talent of over 700 florists at over 60 floral shows.
Not ones to stand still, this duo continues to expand the Fleurs de Villes brand. Here, they share the vision behind Fleurs de Villes and their passion for all things floral.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE NAME 'FLEURS DE VILLES'?
(Karen) The literal translation is “Flowers of Cities” which is our overall focus – the promotion of floral talent and experiences in international cities. It’s a juxtaposition of the international luxury brand we are building, supported by hyperlocal content.
HOW DOES FLEURS DE VILLES WORK WITH LOCAL FLORISTS?
(Tina) Our host partners are some of the world’s leading shopping and lifestyle entertainment locations. We engage partners (such as a restaurant or bank) to showcase stunning floral installations created by designers in their communities. We see this as “public luxury”. The work of these florists isn’t often seen outside of private events. Here, we create a platform to offer a memorable experience for all participants. We always laugh about the fact that we are NOT florists. We just LOVE great local floral talent!
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHERE TO GO NEXT?
(Karen) Fleurs de Villes has a global perspective. We look for world cities where we can share a variety of local floral and fauna, exceptional design perspectives and expanded experiences unique to the region. No two shows are ever the same as we showcase cultural and botanical diversity. With upcoming shows slated for South Africa and Australia, we are excited to share the talent and biodiversity native to the southern hemisphere.
WHERE DOES THE INSPIRATION FOR THE DISPLAYS COME FROM?
(Tina) Our florists, or Fleuristes as we call them, are incredibly talented. They draw inspiration from a variety of places including a painting in their mother’s home, a journey through breast cancer, or a vision that came to them in the night. Fleurs de Villes also creates over-arching templates for shows as further inspiration – think of a particular flower or colour, or a brand partner or show theme.
WHAT ARE THE TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF EACH CREATION? HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?
(Tina) Fleurs de Villes shows feature fresh flowers so they usually last five to ten days. The length of show, the location, the seasonality of flowers and the architecture of the structures are all taken into consideration. Often what is under the gown is as interesting as what is on the surface!
ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE, WHEN DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER YOUR LOVE OF FLOWERS?
(Tina) There have always been flowers in my life and I have loved them since I was a little girl picking bachelor buttons and sweet peas in my grandparents’ garden.
(Karen) My grandmother’s garden in northern Scotland was always full of hardy roses which smelled incredible so I have lovely memories associated with that. I was also very oddly obsessed with a giant red poppy which grew by our front door growing up. I couldn’t believe what emerged from the ground.
IF YOU WERE A FLOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
(Karen) A pale pink Cabbage Rose (Rosa centifolia) in an English country garden. Or a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). So hard to choose!
(Tina) I’d be a peony. As a Gemini, life is not a straight line with me. A peony transforms, it evolves, it’s more than one flower. From tight bud to complex flower to a whimsical finish, it’s 5 or 6 different flowers within a flower and I, too am constantly changing, and evolving. Side note, Karen is also a Gemini so there are often four of us in the room!
WHICH MANNEQUIN TOUCHED YOU THE MOST AT A FLEURS DE VILLES SHOW?
(Tina) That is like asking me who is my favourite child!
(Karen) Every mannequin is a unique creation and all have touched my heart. However the Queen Elizabeth I mannequin by Amie Bone, inspired by the Ditchley portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in London at our Covent Garden Show in 2019, brought together in the most spectacular manner all of my interests, personal and professional. I love history, culture, beauty and art.
WHAT IS YOUR TOP FLORAL TIP FOR OUR FLEURS DE VILLES GUESTS?
(Tina) Look at the mannequins from all sides. Take in the details: the cuff, the jewelry, the shoes…the 'wow' is in the details.
(Karen) Read the signs. You’ll not only see the name of the floral artist, but you will read about the inspiration behind the mannequin, the flowers used and a few other surprising elements. And of course share with your friends and family.
HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE FLOWERS INTO YOUR PERSONAL STYLE – FASHION AND/OR HOME?
(Tina) My home is full of plants and I have an unhealthy amount of vases and containers. When I bring flowers home, it’s like I just bought a new serious decor item and I thrive in deciding which vase to use, whether to split them into 3 smaller bouquets, etc. It’s like playtime!
(Karen) Floral books and magazines – coming from a publishing background I love the printed page! And when not wearing black, I will often incorporate a floral print into my wardrobe.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF THE PERFECT FLOWER ARRANGEMENT TO RECEIVE?
(Tina) Flowers make us happy - is there such a thing as a bad floral arrangement? In the past I've always been thrilled with a bouquet comprised of lots of flowers of the same type and colour. There is something gorgeous in the simplicity of one bloom in abundance and tightly arranged. That said, I’m really developing a taste for more complex bouquets. My absolute favourite at the moment is comprised of pinks with corals and shades of the same with shots of green. It has ranunculus for sure, ideally peonies and perhaps some gorgeous garden roses.
(Karen) Something picked from a friend’s garden. To share the beauty of a home-grown flower with another person is the sign of a true, and loving, friend.
IS THERE AN OUTSTANDING FLOWER THAT HAS PLAYED A ROLE IN KEY MOMENTS OF YOUR LIFE?
(Karen) Roses - my grandmother’s garden; my son’s love of stopping to smell the roses; my eldest daughter’s love of Rose Turkish Delight from Fortnum and Mason; and my youngest’s rose pink ballet slippers. Roses are family love.
(Tina) My European grandparents were avid gardeners and every year the entire front face of their house was covered in sweet peas. When a flower is so present and at the same time such a gift from such a young age, it’s impossible to not be touched by it. Every year I plant sweet peas and every year I inhale their scent deeply and am immediately transported back to the many summers of my childhood.
WHAT SCENT DO YOU WEAR? USE IN YOUR HOME?
(Tina) My favorite house scent is sadly now discontinued: L’Occitane Perfume pour la Maison Ruban d’Orange. I was fortunate enough to know the Canadian L’Occitane owner who helped me acquire as many bottles as I could when they stopped making it. I have one bottle left! My husband’s scent is becoming our favorite house scent. For the past few years, he has been wearing L’Atelier Cologne’s Santal Carmin - my daughters and I swoon when we catch his scent!
(Karen) Many years ago, when I worked at Vanity Fair in London, I was invited to a perfume launch for Jean Patou’s Sublime. I was given a bottle and still wear it to this day. I adore it, and have had so many comments on it over the years. It truly is sublime.