Widely considered a trendsetter in the art of floral design, Meredith Waga Perez is the founder of New York City’s acclaimed Belle Fleur Flowers. She has spent years surrounded by the heavenly fragrance of the world’s most exquisite flowers and her early training and experience in fashion design included stints with some of the top couture houses in the world. I sit down with Meredith and talk history, business and uncover tips on how you can create your own display.
CT: Meredith, great to chat with you – tell me, did you get into floristry?
MWP: Great to connect with you Cameron. Getting into floral design was happenstance, it wasn’t planned nor studied. I went to Parsons School of Design in NYC and Paris, studying fashion and then continued on to work for some incredible designers, Oscar and Calvin. It was a very casual conversation with Calvin about the fresh chamomile he had in all of our offices that led to an introduction to his personal florist. That phone call turned into a meeting, which turned into an internship on the weekends. The rest, as they say, is history.
CT: It’s a pretty interesting skill / technique – how did you learn?
MWP: I studied fashion design and I think those formative years instilled a foundation for all mediums of creativity. As a floral designer, I’m truly self-taught, 25 years ago when I launched Belle Fleur, I didn’t have a mentor, nor were there schools to teach floral design. There was this wonderful store on Fifth Avenue, Takashimaya, that had the most exquisite floral shop on the main floor – Each week I would purchase a few of these beautiful bouquets as inspiration, I would study them at home, deconstructing and then reconstructing each posy. Oh and Carolyne Roehm’s book, A Passion for Flowers, that became my bible for many years.
CT: So, you’re based in Manhattan as is Belle Fleur, what other markets do you cover?
MWP: We’ve been a local upscale Manhattan florist designing everything from charming gift bouquets for the fashion and social elite, weekly stylized arrangements in our clients’ homes, corporate brand activations, lush centrepieces for intimate soirees and of course fabulous design installations for lavish galas and weddings. For the past year I have been working on a new business idea of shipping flowers nationally, planning to launch it before Valentine’s Day 2021, but when all businesses were mandated to close due to Covid 19 back in March, we decided to accelerate that plan and try our hand at shipping flowers directly from Holland to homes across America. I was a little apprehensive at first because there was no way of branding these Box of Blooms since they were shipping directly from Holland, and the flowers were farm-wrapped which was not exactly our look. But the timing was perfect, and the quality was unsurpassed, so we decided to roll up our sleeves and set up an importing business. People were sheltered at home and in need of doing something creative and positive. We began shipping ‘Springtime’ in a box – really gorgeous, seasonal blooms like Peonies, Hydrangea & Tulips, right from Europe, that they could enjoy designing – it brought a lot of people happiness during a very dark period – and it was an overnight success for Belle Fleur.
CT: Will you open up a European operation if you get your flowers from Holland?
MWP: Thanks for the idea – I would love to have an office in London! It feels quite exciting to take my local NYC business to a national level, but yes, the ideal goal is to become an international brand.
CT: I see from Katie Couric’s Instagram that she got an order of your blooms – you have such fans on Instagram! How has business been during the Coronavirus pandemic?
MWP: Katie is the sweetest, she’s a huge supporter of small businesses and promoted our Box of Blooms for the first few weeks of implementation, she was the first of many to endorse Belle Fleur on social media and helped propel it forward. Although we were physically closed for three and a half months, this kickstarter of an idea truly kept us afloat. We have since thankfully reopened and we’re back to delivering beautiful flowers and designing micro-events in NYC, and of course continuing to ship our Box of Blooms across the country.
CT: When lockdown is finally over, and people can host luncheons and dinners- do you have any top tips for flower displays?
MWP: We have already started to discuss design concepts with our clients for 2021, and it’s unanimous, everyone is looking for bolder, more vibrant colors and lusher silhouettes. I personally believe that once this period of time passes, we are all in for a very strong event season. People will be ecstatic to socialize and celebrate every single milestone, occasion and reason to connect.
CT: Is there a particular colour or flower we should be using?
MWP: Well, I’m a girly-girl at heart so I’m forecasting all shades of pink. If the forecasts are correct and large-scale events return next spring – we can pick up where we left off with Peonies being the forever favorite bloom of choice.
CT: For those who don’t know – you have your own fragrance candles and diffusers also (perfect for gifting), how do you go about seeking the scents you’ve selected?
MWP: We have a lovely collection of fragrant candles, 17 sublime scents to select from, all beautifully packaged. We also recently launched Aeromyst, our fragrance diffusers that utilize state-of-the-art diffusion technology and are operated via Bluetooth through a smartphone or tablet. It’s a game changer.
All of our aroma concepts have a unique story. Sometimes were inspired by an actual raw material (Cacao Tabaq), sometimes it’s a work of literature (Fleur d’Anjou), an Opera (Scarlet Flower) or architecture (Casa Malaparte). We develop these scents in collaboration with a world-renowned perfumer and a 200-year-old raw material supplier from Grasse, known for their natural materials.
CT: What’s your favourite from the range?
MWP: There is fragrance wafting in my home at all times – usually Mayan Tuberose. It’s one of the sexiest aromas and our very first creation and a fan favorite. I also love Petales d’Amour because it’s romantic and feminine…and then there’s Bergamot Cedar, it’s hard for me to pick just one favourite.
CT: I love your room fragrance sticks – what a great idea! How does Belle Fleur work with clients to decide a scent to match their personality or room? Can you create bespoke and if so, how long does it take?
MWP: The development of the Aeromyst convinced us to look forward and move on from the traditional passive reed diffuser. The Aeromyst is an active scent system, covering about 85 square metres and built on the notion of the “connected home.” It’s more modern, convenient and effective at scenting space and people just love the technology and ease of use – your space is scented when you want and to the level you want.
We work closely with our clients on matching the mood and message they wish to convey in their homes and office spaces. The fragrance selection is based on a number of factors – interior design, lighting, functionality of the space and even the season. Recently, we created a series of custom branded aromas for a Robert Stern designed luxury condominium in Manhattan (20 East End Avenue). Usually a building will have one signature scent, but this is the first building of its kind that commissioned us to do three distinct aromas for the building – one for the lobby, one for their stunning library and one for their spa.
Custom-curating a bespoke scent is an extensive process, and such fun. We consult with the developer and designer to fully understand their brand, vision and the message they want to convey – every space has something to say about its personality. We then draft a detailed brief and a visual mood board along with initial aroma ideas. Once we feel that we have extracted the true essence of the space, we send the profile to our perfumer in Grasse. A few fragrances are submitted, and we start to fine-tune the notes and accords. There are usually 3-5 trials, but the end result is sensational (sorry, just being cheeky). From start to finish the process is approximately 3 months and the fragrance becomes the unique, recognizable signature scent to that property or brand. We are currently working on creating a bespoke aroma for one of the most iconic buildings in the world, stay tuned!
Discover the world of Belle Fleur at www.bellefleurny.com