Interview

Saskia Havekes of Grandiflora

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 9th October 2015

Saskia Havekes runs Grandiflora, Sydney’s best known floristry business. Come to think of it, Saskia is probably Australia’s most famous florist. (I say this with all due respect to all the other truly amazing florists I know – and there are many!).

Revered for her seriously impressive large scale floral installations, this month marks another milestone as Saskia celebrates her twentieth year in business with the launch of her third book, ‘Flower Addict’ published by Penguin.

There is something very special about Saskia Havekes and the incredible projects she undertakes, that have had peoples’ tongues wagging about Grandiflora ever since it’s first day of trade, in a modest little shopfront in Potts Point over twenty years ago.

Saskia is an intuitive creative who really sees flowers as a sculptural medium, and she thinks BIG. The scale of the various installations Grandiflora has undertaken over the years really do defy belief! Yes, there have been plenty of weddings (we’re talking SERIOUS weddings) but Grandiflora have also won endless accolades for their bold installations for fashion shows, festivals and special events both at home and abroad. Saskia is known for pushing the limits of what can be done with flowers – from suspending perfect blooms in enormous blocks of ice, to dipping flowers in wax, or creating cascades of endless foliage for the most breathtaking editorial shoots… no challenge is too great for Saskia and her team.

In addition to these large scale projects, over the years Saskia has also released fragrances and published two books. This month marks another milestone as Saskia celebrates her twentieth year in business with the launch of her third book, ‘Flower Addict’ published by Penguin. With stunning photographs by Nicholas Watt, this beautiful book documents some of Grandiflora’s most impressive large scale floral projects over the past few years. It’s truly spectacular stuff. As Saskia says below, she hopes very much to illicit at least one gasp or two as readers pore through the pages… well, Saskia, you got one from me!

Grandiflora
1/12 Macleay St
Potts Point, NSW

Saskia’s beautiful new book, ‘Flower Addict‘ is released October 21st, priced at $79.99.

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to floristry originally, and to the launch of your own business?

I grew up in Kenthurst Dural in North West Sydney with a beautiful garden, and I always had a love and passion for flowers. I started my business when I first saw the little shop in Potts Point and fell in love with it.

After working in advertising and the art world in New York, I realised my addiction to flowers when I continually found myself drawn into flower shops/stalls/markets – just the scent has been a huge drawcard and attraction for me. My sister was starting a course in flowers and I joined her.

Being a florist means notoriously early starts and big bump-ins, but among all the long hours there must be lots of super fun bits too. What are the projects or clients you love most?

All projects present the opportunity to work with beautiful flowers, and discover how they can transform an environment to create a mood or to stir emotions. I love the flower enthusiasts I meet everyday in our studio – my colleagues and clients. Their observations and lusts for certain blooms are continually inspiring. The growers give me support in the beautiful materials they supply, enabling me to have more freedom.

A project we are currently working on is a famous artist’s wedding, full of colour and texture. Working out structures and pushing events out to extremes is always rewarding. I loved working in Paris on Eva Longoria’s wedding with Jeff Latham. I also loved recently working on suspending flowers in ice for our third fragrance ‘Madagascan Jasmine’ at Fenwicks Department Store in London.

I also love arranging flowers within people’s homes. It is very personal and always different,  interpreting the style and feeling of different spaces. Some clients are very open and trusting with this private space, which gives me the impulse to go the extra yard.

How many people make up your team, and do you outsource any significant tasks?

We have a solid team of seven, but often have to invite highly experienced and skilled florists to assist on a large scale projects or overseas installations!

What are your top floral picks to say thank you, sorry, and I love you?

Thank you: White Phalaenopsis Orchids planted into a clear glass vase and covered in moss is elegant and has longevity.

Sorry: Small and potent flower gestures that use deep rich colours or simple crisp white arrangements to show deep thought.

I love you: Peonies, but remember too big can be too much! It is important to choose the right bloom for the right person so some search goes a long way. Anything with a hand written note is touching.

Your new book Flower Addict comes out later this October. How long has this book been in development for, and what can we expect to find inside its pages?

The book was a two year gestation from start to finish, and we certainly didn’t get to photograph every event throughout that time frame. So this is more a slice and saturation of our flower world as a grown up, 20-year-old studio. When you open the pages I hope to hear at least one sharp intake of breath!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I am up at 4am, at least three if not four mornings per week, to visit the flower market and get a total blast off with a pollen infused shopping experience. I then return to Grandiflora, start the orders for deliveries for the day, then work through details of events. Producing arrangements for events often requires more detail than expected. Site inspections, bridal catch-ups and mock-ups then follows. Usually we will install an event and organise the next few days, and leave the shop no earlier than 6 or 7pm.

Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

Michelle Jank : Michelle is an Australian costume and jewellery designer currently working between New York and Berlin with dance companies and in fashion.

Jordan Askil : I love Jordan’s new butterfly jewellery for George Jensen.

Del Kathryn Barton : Her animated film work is beyond amazing and she has just completed her second film with Cate Blanchett which I am looking forward to seeing.

Can you list for us your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?

Karl Blossfeldt : his black and white photographs of weed-seeds are arresting and eternally inspiring.

MOMA New York : When I get the chance to visit, the collection continually throws my imagination into a storm.

Dia Art Foundation : always modern art and sometimes placed within a landscape which I find a captivating combination.

Inez and Vinoodh : I like the fact they are a creative couple pushing the boundaries in the world of flowers and fashion.

What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

The Gold Dinner 2014, where we unveiled our first floral ice pieces. There was so much buzz getting the ice-chest open to reveal each masterpiece. They got better and better as they started to melt.

What would be your dream creative project?

To sew a few billion/trillion blooms into a blanket and toss it over the Opera House.

What are you looking forward to?

Launching our third fragrance in London at Fenwicks, and releasing our two new candles with Cire Trvdon. Discovering more flowers and meeting more people, some occasional rest would also be welcome!

SYDNEY QUESTIONS

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

Potts Point because it has a really nice community feel to it, and it’s been amazing watching it grow over the twenty years. It still hasn’t lost its charm.

What and where was the best meal you recently had in Sydney?

The barramundi at Icebergs after detoxing with Chinese herbs for 14 days straight. I was with an intimate group of family and friends.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Usually getting up very early in the dark to prepare for a wedding or big event. Ask anyone in Potts Point and they will testify that’s absolutely the case.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Currawong beach cottages at Palm Beach.

Saskia Havekes outside her flower shop Grandiflora in Potts Point. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.


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