Last week, French floral expert Laura Dowling told us about the differences between American and French flower design styles. Today, she fills us in on what’s hot- and not, in the world of French fleur couture. She also shares some insider tips on how you can incorporate a French look into your overall wedding décor:
parisian party: What are some of the hottest French bouquet and centerpiece trends right now?
laura dowling: The trends that I find the most compelling are the ones that reference a natural garden-style – wild and natural arrangements with a strong artistic vision: 1) The rustique style emphasizes a rich mix of textures and a muted, monochromatic color scheme. It features woodsy elements such as twigs, moss, pods, and grasses in shades of cream, green and brown for a sophisticated and pastoral look. 2) The nostalgique style celebrates a classic, timeless lookfeaturing abundant masses of garden flowers such as snapdragons, roses and hydrangea arranged in classic urns. Color schemes are retro-inspired – peach and green, pale yellow and cornflower blue, amber and red – are set off with either vintage containers or stems and vases decorated with natural elements. 3) The simplicite approach features a pared down aesthetic, relying more on clean geometric forms and monochromatic color schemes than a use of complicated technique. 4) Finally, the haute couture style focuses on the latest colors and trends from the Parisian fashion runways: bright fuchsia or purple paired with black, deep plum and chartreuse, shimmering gold and brown, and the bold use of vivacious hues and patterns that evoke baroque and byzantine influences.
My favorite trends right now in bouquets and centerpieces carry out this natural, organic theme in flowers, containers, and accessories – vine and leaf-wrapped vases, the use of seasonal garden flowers arranged in flowing romantic lines, and the incorporation of charming finishing touches such as butterfly orchids floating in and around the arrangement. For a bolder, more contemporary look I like groupings of lush flowers with a contrasting touch – for example, hot pink hydrangea with a tuft of deep black calla lilies arranged fashionably to one side.
pp: What (if anything) would you put on your “not” list- are there any floral trends (French or otherwise) that you think should be laid to rest for a while?
ld: Flowers are so personal and taste is obviously very subjective. I would say that if you have a strong vision for your flowers you should follow that vision no matter what the current trend or fashion dictates. Personally speaking, there are some trends from which I tend to stay away. For example, I’m not fond of big floral balls – devoid of stems and foliage – placed on top of tall cylinder vases, which I think is a dated an unnatural look. I would also forego the trend of submerging flowers under water for the same reason. In my view, it’s essential to maintain the underlying connection with nature that is inherent in the idea of working with organic materials – using artistry and technique to enhance the presentation of the flowers rather than detract from it. To carry out this kind of natural style, organic containers are an effective tool as is using a variety of greens in designs. Most importantly, flowers should be
arranged as if they’re growing in the garden or in the meadow rather than in a stiff, formulaic composition.
pp: Can you list a few ways that a bride can bring a French touch to her French- or Parisian-inspired wedding décor?
ld: The key to getting a French look for weddings is to incorporate beautiful touches – French-embroidered linens tied with narrow ribbons; Parisian or French motifs from kitsch — Eiffel towers and poodles — to sophisticated – opulent Versaille style, toile de jouy fabric, etc.; vintage silver pieces (e.g., ice buckets, compotes, silverware, etc.); for centerpieces: mirrored cubes with garden roses and trailing ivy for a chic Parisian look or lavender, wheat and sunflowers for a more rustic Provencal style. In addition, I think that the French approach always features ethereal and whimsical touches (e.g., fairy wings, butterflies, ribbon streamers – charming accents that will add that special je ne sais quoi). The most important idea for achieving a French touch in décor is to create a warm and welcoming ambiance for your guests that will set the tone for a spectacular affair, whether petite or grande in scale. This is the secret of the French style.
pp: Who is your Parisian style icon- (man or woman/past or present/fictional or non-fictional), and why?
ld: There are many sources of inspiration for French fleur couture – historical styles, haute couture fashion trends, and of course, nature – all of these
things inspire me and create the chic soignée of French flower design. For me, the most interesting influence on contemporary French flower design is the role of the French fashion industry – the haute couture designers – on providing color and style trends that fleuristes translate into bouquet designs. Of course, Coco Chanel is an important style icon for capturing a haute couture style that translates into elegant and timeless bouquets of green and white flowers — phaleonopsis orchids, peonies, gardenias and white garden roses. Christian Lacroix inspires me with his bold and unusual color choices and even his intriguing line of fragrances. The scents conjure up images of tropical gardens and magical, faraway places that contribute to my creative vision.
In all of my work, I am inspired by Christian Tortu, the legendary Parisian florist who was the founding artistic director of L’Ecole des Fleurs. In his books and classes, he conveys a strong philosophy about French flower design. He believes that there is no real hierarchy in flowers – that the humble grasses and woodland pods are as important as the exotic blooms, and that you need an entire landscape of materials in bouquets to evoke poetic results. Throughout his career, he collaborated with the great French fashion designers, noting that the dialogue between the fashion and flower worlds creates incredible synergy and innovation in design. Tortu’s approach, his philosophy, his generosity of spirit — have all inspired me in my pursuit of my own style in the French manner.
Laura Dowling is herself an inspiration to not only the followers of floral arts, but also to Francophiles and lovers of French style and design across the country. In addition to her boutique, Intérieurs et Fleurs in Alexandria Virginia, she also presents lectures and workshops on the art of French flower design. For a more frequent dose of her flawless floral creations, be sure to bookmark her blog, L’Art du Bouquet.
Mille mercis, Laura, and à bientôt!