Business

Fresh flower fashions lure Oak Bay florist

One of two designs shown by Rob Jennings, of Jennings Florist in Oak Bay, during last year’s Fleurs de Villes event.  - Photo contributed
One of two designs shown by Rob Jennings, of Jennings Florist in Oak Bay, during last year’s Fleurs de Villes event.
— image credit: Photo contributed

A gown of roses haunts Rob Jennings – in a fantastic way.

He crafted the creation nearly two decades ago as a florist in a bridal fashion show.

“In a sea of bouquets and little bunches of flowers the only thing that’s going to stand out is if a statuesque girl walks the runway in a dress made of flowers. That was close to 20 years ago and people are still talking about it,” said Jennings, of Jennings Florist in Estevan village. “It was so incredibly thrilling to watch that creation walk down the runway, and opportunities like that don’t come along every day for florists.”

When the opportunity to create more clothing, this time for a mannequin, arose last year, Jennings jumped at the chance.

Fleurs de Villes, Canada’s premiere Floral Mannequin Series, returns for its second engagement at Mayfair Centre through March 12 as the first stop on the event’s inaugural cross-Canada tour.

“It’s a huge challenge but it’s totally worth it,” Jennings said.

The floral world has evolved since his great grandparents started Jennings Florist when they came to Canada in 1911, he says.

“Change is good, but let’s face it, bunches of flowers uncreatively put together are everywhere these days,” he says. “To show people the true creative genius behind crafting a bunch of flowers into something more … weaving those flowers together so that they fold into the fabric of a gown is incredible. Then you get to share it. You get to put it on display and people just stand and stare and go ‘that’s incredible.’ And some of it is quite wearable.”

The mannequin arrived early last week and had to be 99 per cent complete before heading for the mall this week. A task not daunting for the lifelong floral craftsman.

“Our family’s been doing this for like 100 years I’m not afraid of that part,” Jennings said. “We do up to 100 weddings a year, and some quite large on long weekends where there will be a pair of huge events. That whole ‘build it, install it, tear it down and come back with a completely different installation a day later’ is something that we have loads of experience doing. It’s part of the job and part of the excitement because no two projects are identical.”

While he starts with a storyboard, the mannequin can come in a handful of different poses, so ultimately it comes down to the final week for the vision to form; and at least 30 hours of work. Of course the flowers are ordered well ahead, so colour-wise he promises “bright and colourful.”

Valuable lessons learned last year contribute to the 2017 creation, including a few visits during the showcase to mist the creation.

“It’s a living, organic dress and it will shrink and shift and it will move. That in itself is fun and exciting,” Jennings said. “Flower arrangements are temporary art.”

Fleurs de Villes combines fashion and flowers and features more than a dozen bespoke, floral-dressed mannequins, each clothed in a one-of-a-kind design made up of hundreds of fresh blooms created by local florists including. A pop-up fresh flower market rounds out the event on Saturday, March 11, complete with fresh-cut flowers, bouquets, bedding plants, pots and other gardening supplies.

Public viewing of the finished mannequins runs until Sunday, March 12 during regular business hours.

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