What an honor it is to have Olivier Giugni of L’Olivier Floral Atelier stopping by for a visit today! With an avant-garde artistic vision, incomparable beauty and relentless attention to detail, Olivier has worked to establish the L’Olivier brand as the ‘Haute Couture’ of floral creation. One-of-a-kind arrangements from L’Olivier adorn the homes and work places of celebrities and A-list New Yorkers from the worlds of fashion, finance and fine arts. Welcome, Olivier…
Image courtesy of Pamela Berkovic
BB: What inspired you to become a floral designer? When and where did you start your business?
Olivier Giugni: Flowers are just something that came naturally to me as a young child living in Provence in the South of France. I have always been surrounded by all different fragrances and being born and raised in a small village, the countryside was really accessible. My grandparents owned a winery and olive groves. This is when I discovered that working closely to nature was my passion. When I moved to Paris at the age of 20, the legendary fashion designer Pierre Cardin, gave me the opportunity to work for him and his new venture, “Les Fleurs de Maxim’s” flower boutique on Rue Royale in Paris. I was self-taught, but being surrounded by his haute couture collection was very inspiring since all of his clothes were based on architecture and spatial. Being exposed to all of this creativity definitely influenced my design sensibilities on architecture and fashion.
A few years later, I moved to Tokyo to open a “Les Fleurs de Maxim’s” boutique as well, and later the same store in New York City on E 61st Street and Madison Avenue, adjacent to the famous Restaurant Maxim’s and the Carlton House Hotel.
I opened L’Olivier Floral Atelier in 1994. My flagship boutique is located in a landmark brownstone at 19 East 76th Street next to The Carlyle Hotel and across from Café Boulud.
We just celebrated our 20th Anniversary last Fall. We also recently opened a studio in Harlem where we can produce larger scale arrangements for Special Events.
BB: How did you develop your broad knowledge base of floral design as a self-taught designer?
Olivier Giugni: As a young child, long before I knew I would spend my life in the company of flowers, I often found myself in my Italian grandmother’s garden in Provence. On her large terrace, she grew a variety of succulents, ruby red geraniums, rosemary, thyme, lavender, ferns and a venerable fig tree, among others. She enrolled me as her assistant gardener: I was in charge of watering, cleaning, and soon propagating the various plants.
I was not thinking that later flowers would become my passion and long-term career. It was just something that came naturally to me since I love plants and animals a lot. When I was older, I moved to Paris and began an apprenticeship in a Parisian neighborhood flower shop before being hired by the Pierre Cardin Haute Couture house.
Image courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency (Floral Headdress Met Gala 2015)
BB: Can you describe the L’Olivier design aesthetic?
Olivier Giugni: Since my first creation, I have been reinventing infusing them with an avant-garde and dreamy artistic vision. I pioneered the leaf wrapped vase, an innovation that adds a striking sense of depth as well as movement and has become one of my trademarks. I was the first designer to break the mold in the flower industry and use green exotic leaves to wrap the flowers or the vases. Before, in the flower industry, people were using different types of green, like fern, baby’s breath and other types of fillers. Adding exotic leaves was a way to make sure that my clients were going to see only beauty throughout the entire arrangement.
BB: You’ve accomplished so much during your career. What would you say have been the highlights so far?
Olivier Giugni: After all of these years in business, you are always working on something exciting. The last very exciting event that I worked on was to transform the new Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center into “El Morocco” the famous Manhattan nightclub in the 1930s.
BB: How do you find balance between your business life and your personal life?
Olivier Giugni: Three years ago, I joined with a new business partner who has been a very good friend of mine for a long time. Her support gave me some more freedom for creativity. I also practice meditation, which helps me keep up with the fast-paced floral industry.
BB: What have been your greatest struggles/frustrations while building and then growing your business?
Olivier Giugni: The hardest part of being a floral artist is that you have to be consistent as well as very focused and confident of your artistic abilities. A big part of being consistent in developing your own floral style is surrounding yourself with a team of designers that you trust. As a company founder, you want to be involved in every aspect of the business, which could appear to be overwhelming sometimes, but dedication will help you to focus.
BB: When you think back over your career, does one design stand out as exceptionally meaningful to you?
Olivier Giugni: I spent three wonderful years of my life on my book, Living Art. I really feel like it was the culmination of all of my years as a floral artist. Going to people’s homes and adapting my designs to their personalities was a great opportunity to really encapsulate what we do here at L’Olivier. We design weekly flowers for homes, businesses, etc. and are constantly inspired by the artwork and architecture of each place as well as the personalities of our clients at each location. As you read the book, I think this is very well reflected.
BB: Where do you find inspiration to sustain your creative spirit?
Olivier Giugni: I find Inspiration is all around! Living here in New York, I am inspired by Central Park and the architecture of the city as well as the museums and fashion shows. I also go back to my roots in the south of France as much as I can to recharge and refocus my creative spirit. Between New York and the South of France, I am constantly inspired by the people that I meet and the cuisine that I am exposed to. I find that cooking and chatting with people about recipes is a fantastic way to broaden my point of view.
BB: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received along your flower journey? Have you had mentors along the way?
Olivier Giugni: I have had several mentors throughout my life. My grandmother was the first person to introduce me to nature. In Paris, Pierre Cardin, of course. In New York City, Chef Daniel Boulud has been a very good friend and mentor. The best piece of advice I’ve received is “Don’t try to imitate anyone else, just be confident and stay focused on your own creativity.”
BB: What long-term dreams do you have for L’Olivier?
Olivier Giugni: Long-term, I would like to see the L’Olivier brand grow in different product categories and hopefully one day beyond New York. We are a true luxury brand and we want to grow while respecting our DNA and commitment to excellence and service to all our clients. We have already launched candles and home fragrances, only using the best natural ingredients and are looking forward to pushing the envelope even further and extending our line with other products and designs related to the home.
To see more of Olivier Giugni’s work: