The Florist Fashion Designers and Hoteliers Love
Olivier Giugni of L'Olivier Floral Atelier floral sculptures make him the go-to for New York's creative set
For Olivier Giugni, whose New York company, L’Olivier Floral Atelier, is known for its original and bold arrangements, the holiday season is when one “can really express one’s creativity.” That is the time of year when “you can use a lot of glitter, and part of the reason I like to live in America is the glitter,” explained the French-born Giugni, showing a visitor around the Harlem, New York, studio he has occupied for the past four years—formerly the stable that housed horses belonging to Brooke Astor, one of the city’s most famous grandes dames.
Giugni is partial to making arrangements that incorporate twinkling lights, roses with a dusting of sparkles, leaves sprayed in gold or silver, coral dipped in silver, purple Vanda or snowy white Dendrobium orchids, and one of his favorite flowers—calla lilies.
“We work with them like jewelry,” said Giugni, who entwines the long stems gracefully around the handle of a silver vase. “It’s the time of year when it’s hard to do too much,” he added. That said, Giugni knows when to stop: Even his most lavish holiday compositions present a certain striking sculptural style. Giugni first came to New York 30 years ago, on a ten-day trip, to work as a florist for Pierre Cardin and open a small flower shop for the French fashion designer. “I had met Cardin when I was 20,” Giugni recalled, “and had never studied to be a florist. I lived in Provence and often worked in my grandparents’ garden. I always loved flowers and everything connected to nature, but never thought it would be my career. Forty years ago, a florist was not recognized as a designer, but now a florist is on the same level as an architect or a decorator.”
L’Olivier’s clients include the Carlyle Hotel in New York and the restaurant Daniel—Daniel Boulud has been a friend for 20 years, and Giugni says of him, “Daniel is a chef, but he likes to talk about décor and flowers.” For Giugni, “It’s all about the ambiance and the light.” “I love dimmers,” he added. Giugni’s recently introduced line of candles offers an extension of his philosophy. In collaboration with the French firm DreamAir, the candles, which come in three scents—Vert de Vert, Cuir Végétal, and the newest arrival, Mai Flower—are often incorporated into his compositions with flowers that come from the South of France, Holland, South America, and the peonies, the United States. “I look at fashion and colors,” said Giugni, “and I learned to make arrangements that have a certain depth, a kind of living sculptures. The beauty is that it’s ephemeral, but that’s what gives it its charm, too.”