Burlington Is Coming Up Roses – By Mike Spry

Flowers have an almost mystical power, and a pronounced role in nearly every culture no matter what part of the world they grow in. Blooming is a symbol of renewal, of life. A bouquet is a celebration, allegory and metaphor, affectation and amplification. They are a declaration of affection or appreciation—sometimes an apology. Flowers brighten our aesthetic, mourn our departed, accompany brides to grooms, represent both love and despair, and inspire and inform art of every form, since the first bloom and petal. But, as an art form floral design hasn’t been given the respect or attention that its practice deserves. An ambitious Vancouver-based company is on a mission to change that.

Fleurs de Villes “combines the love of flowers, local design talent, and bespoke, utterly unique displays, for experiential events like none other.” The singular outfit serves as a network of sorts for floral artists and professionals, hosting 5-day events in shopping centres that showcase the wonder and spirit of a skilled and accomplished community, built on partnerships with more than 75 local floral designers and leading brands in locations across Canada. The one-of-a-kind experience includes a competitive Floral Mannequin Series in which awards —such as most original, most realistic, and best in show—are presented. The competition includes more than a dozen talented and celebrated local florists who “design fashion-inspired displays brought to life with flowers. Each floral-dressed mannequin is clothed in a one-of-a-kind design made up of hundreds of fresh blooms.” The audience is encouraged to interact, take photos, and engage with the event, and award their own accolade with a fan favourite prize.

The second part of the program is a flower market that allows the public to take a piece of the production home. The European-inspired pop-up offers fresh flowers, bouquets, and all manner of floral supplies and crafts from specially chosen local florists and flower professionals. This May 10th to 14th, Fleurs de Villes hosts an event at the Mapleview Shopping Centre in Burlington, where denizens of the Golden Horseshoe will get their first taste—and scent—of a truly special initiative. It all kicks off with a VIP soiree, an evening to welcome Fleurs de Villes to Southern Ontario in style.

Their name—Fleurs de Villes (flowers of the cities)—is meant to connote their mandate of connectivity. Partnered with Ivanhoé Cambridge Shopping Malls, Fleurs de Villes works with “top local florists, designers, growers and nurseries, to showcase that city’s world-class talent and create stunning displays of art.” Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley founded the company because of a shared passion for flowers and floral design. Their backgrounds are varied—Marshall is a branding and publishing authority and Barkley one of the west coast’s most prominent lifestyle experts—but together they’ve created a unique experience in a space that lacked promotion and a globally networked community.

But Fleurs de Villes moves far beyond competition and showcase. Marshall sees the company as a mode through which floral professionals and enthusiasts may have their community galvanized. “They don’t get the appreciation from the arts community,” she says. “[And] don’t often have the opportunity to display their art. [Fleurs de Villes boasts] the very best in local floral design, and gives them an opportunity to shine in creating works of art…[I] wasn’t prepared for how competitive they are!” The first event, in Victoria, British Columbia, was inspired by a passion for flowers, but illuminated the under-celebrated nature of the form, as the “florists knew of each other but had never actually met, and were brought together after feeling quite [separated from one another.]”

In “showcasing the very best in local floral design, and [giving] them an opportunity to shine in creating works of art” Marshall adds, Fleurs de Villes has created a niche space—where “no two shows are the same”— for itself to celebrate the wonder of flowers. While currently focused on Canada, they have had offers to host events in China, Dubai, and England. They’ve “built a brand that is quite powerful and without boundaries.” These are vetted artists of the highest degree, a high-end indulgence in both beauty and art. Fleurs de Villes provides a venue for floral professionals and the public to engage in a global conversation about the art and beauty of flowers while creating invaluable partnerships in which communities may really…flourish.

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