He fell in love with flowers as a child and, since then, Thierry Boutemy hasn’t separated from them. He transforms, almost without realizing it, a hobby born from innocence and illusion into his everyday work – although he admits hating the business side of the job. From haute couture runway shows to films like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, this passion has now led him to this year’s edition of Flora Festival in Córdoba (Spain), where he’s won the second prize with an installation inspired by theatre and dance. Today, we speak with him about his favourite flowers, working in fashion and film, and his love for nature.
Tell us a little bit about your beginnings. Why did you choose to work with flowers? It’s not a profession that’s especially recognized or talked about in school. Did you ever think it was a risky decision?
I fell in love with flowers during my childhood. I had no idea of this work, but on the first place, for me it is a refuge, a way to escape from reality; it forgets materiality, it is a way of fighting to exist. At first, I made bouquets with the flowers I found in nature and offered them my heart.
Do you remember any specific moment when you realized that this was your calling?
I studied horticulture and then floristry. This decision grew out of an innocent and pure feeling; I didn’t realize it was going to become a business word, which I hate, and, in fact, I really don’t like it if I’m honest.
You’re one of the five participants in this year’s edition of Flora Festival, taking place in Córdoba (Spain). What role do you think events like this have when it comes to giving visibility to floral artists and floral design in general?
We are in a system where you must be profitable and not too dreamy. I was really glad when I got called in because I didn’t have time before and now I do. I am happy to be able to share this floral moment with a truly popular and not elitist or restricted audience. I hope that with this installation, we can share a moment of reflection. I really hope to be able to transport some people elsewhere.
You’ve won the second prize at the Flora festival with your installation. For those who haven’t seen it, could tell us more about it?
For this installation, I was very inspired by the theatre of Romeo Castellucci and the dance company Batsheva. These artists have inspired me for twenty-five years, they never stopped enchanting me. I also like Hofesh Schecter and Lev Dance Company. This installation really comes from them, and that’s why I wanted total black and work with the light.
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Photos: José Rojas
One of the turning points of your career was Sofia Coppola’s film debut in 2006. What changes did you experience after making the floral arrangements for Marie Antoinette?
I really enjoyed working for the film. I often have the opportunity to work with many flowers and it gives a direct pleasure, it is comforting, but Marie Antoinette was a more difficult project.
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When it comes to your work, what inspires you? Do you wait for inspiration to come or are you one of those who think inspiration has to find you working?
My inspiration comes from wanting to fulfil people’s dreams. I’m attracted to melancholy and often romantic things, but in the true sense of the term romantic; I am inspired by 19th-century writers.
Another important part of your career is the dreamlike sceneries you’ve created for high-end fashion shows. You’ve worked a lot with Lanvin but also with Dior or Dries van Noten – all of them known for their exquisite approach to garment-making and their work with flowers and florals. What is your work there like? Are you given carte blanche or do you work under strict parameters (like a certain colour range that works well with the chromaticism of the collection, for example)?
I don’t like to talk too much about fashion because I don’t think I have enough knowledge. Although, on the other hand, I like to listen to new proposals and work in collaboration with artistic directors and accompany and understand them and their ideas. Freedom is often restricted and I like it.
Even though you’ve decorated high-end fashion shows, you’re also keen on showing your work publicly so people can see it and admire it. The Flora Festival is just one example. Do you think it’s important that the general public has access to your production?
I am very happy to be able to share this moment with Flora and Córdoba, even at the risk of disappointing the public, because the installation I present is floral and intimate. There is no extravagance but I think it is close to me.
Out of curiosity, do you have a garden yourself? Or, at least, dozens of plants and flowers inside your house?
I live in a house surrounded by tall trees and a garden. I have very few flowers, and the ones I have are discreet. I planted many ferns and undergrowth plants. I don’t really like gardens with lots of flowers because it often looks artificial; I prefer nature in them, like my work. Sometimes, I wonder what I’m doing with flowers since now my passion has become a business.
Last one: on a personal level, what are your favourite flowers?
I think my favourite flowers are the Iris Germanica and also the Fritillaria and Chrysanthemum with large flowers.
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