Jeff Leatham is a big fan of floral arrangements. It's a time-travel invitation.
The celebrity florist, who has been working at the highest level for the past three decades, has transformed the Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, and Paris with stunning installations. She has also curated florals for numerous extravagant weddings and celebrity parties -- including a long-standing collaboration with the Kardashian Jenner family.
The florist knows from experience how flowers can transport a viewer back to a special moment. It's not just about arranging beautiful blooms, although he is incredibly talented at it. His goal is to create a moment that evokes a raw, natural beauty. Leatham revisits some of these signature and emotive moments in his new book, "The Art of the Flower." The retrospective highlights the staggering scale of many of Leatham's projects. Entire rooms covered in red roses from floor to ceiling, an indoor swimming pool surrounded by archways of baby pink orchis and peonies that seem to fall from the sky are just a few examples.
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Leatham's floral arrangements don't only transport you to the past; they leave a lasting impression on the present. In the same way that flowers are fleeting, they are unforgettable.
CNN: What is it about flowers that inspires you as a creative medium?
Jeff Leatham says: "For me, the joy (a floral arrangement brings) to people is what's important." The amount of people who stop and look at the floral arrangements in the hotel lobby is important to me. It's important to me when someone notices beauty, especially natural beauty. That's probably what I find attractive. Even after all these years, I am still amazed at how nature's beauty can take people by surprise.
Flowers are an essential part of many milestones in human life. Why do you believe they are so important to our lives?
Flowers can bring back memories. They are like old friends who visit and leave again. Flowers can also bring back memories of past times. For example, my father's mother died when I had just turned four. Every time I smell or see a lilac it instantly takes me back to the days when we were visiting her, and there were giant lilacs in front of her home.
I'm sure a lot people have similar stories with flowers. They take them back to an important moment in their lives, whether happy or sad.
What appeals to your particular sense of ephemerality about flowers?
It's probably because you get those moments in life, and in particular in mine, where you think: 'I couldn't be happier than I am now.' You can say the same thing when you see your favorite flower. Hold onto the moment. It will only last a few days. It's not going to last forever, so enjoy it while you can.
What is your opinion on floral design and how would you describe it?
I am so lucky to be alive in a time when flowers are such a huge trend. In 1992, when I first moved to Paris (and began working at the Four Seasons George V hotel), we changed the way people viewed flowers by presenting them in an elegant, clean and simple way. All one color, bunched up, floating out of a base. This was the beginning of a real revolution.
The styles have evolved over time; in a way, it's like fashion... everyone chooses the style that best fits their personality. Flowers are also a sign of wealth, a status symbol. It's like driving up to a wedding in a nice car. How many flowers do you need to show how much money is in your bank account?
In your book, you write about the fashion icons that surrounded you during your time in Paris. How did these relationships affect your work?
The Golden Years are what I call those days. Everyone was there -- Karl Lagerfeld, Lee McQueen, Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton. It really shaped who I am as an artist because it was a period when everything was possible. Budgets were large and creativity was high. It was a very direct approach. It was cutting edge.
I was particularly impressed by McQueen's shows. They were so creative and out of this universe. He didn't care. Pardon my French. It was his pushing of the boundaries in design that really influenced me and still influences me -- because that's something I don't see anymore in fashion. It's more about how many sunglasses, bags, and shoes we can sell now, than making a dress from seashells. When I was experimenting back then, I used live birds, butterflies, and other things to push my limits. It was a mix of success and failure, but it made me a more accomplished artist.
Kim Kardashian is the author of this book. What makes your relationship so special with her?
My relationship began with her mother, Kris Jenner. She's taught me so much because she has always had amazing taste and style. Kimberly is also a lover of fashion and art. She always wants to look on the cutting edge but in a classical way. She is not safe. She's trying to make a point. She's open to trying new things, which is why I enjoy working with her. She sends me photos, saying, "What if we made this our own?" She is a great designer and she always pushes you to be better.
They are great friends, and they are great clients. We share a similar love for photography, fashion, and architecture, and Kim in particular. It's interesting to me because much of what I do in terms of flowers is related to architecture.
Your work seems to be in constant communication with the environment and architecture in which it is situated. How do you manage that?
When I first started at the George V Hotel, I didn't know what I was in for. It was so heavy, French, and classical. I thought, I need to do something completely opposite so my work doesn't fade into the tapestry. That's when I began to work in a very architectural way, with the flowers using bold colors and very strong lines. It made a huge difference.
The heavy furniture was removed from the lobby. Take out the furniture and put more flowers in!