Posts Tagged “hitomi gilliam AIFD”

NeoFlora: What Does a Sushi Chef, Rock Star, and a Florist have in Common?

Blogger: Sabrina Mesa


Question: What do a sushi chef, Paul McCartney and my mom have in common? Let’s look at these people individually.


Sushi chefs spend years perfecting the art of combining and grading ingredients both raw and cooked in a multitude of combinations and variations. They use tools such as sharp knives to cut intricate designs for displays on plates or wooden sushi boats. Many sushi restaurants have the sushi chef right in plain view of a bar area where patrons can watch them create these delicious meals.


Paul McCartney is a musical icon whose many achievements began when we was part of the Fab Four (The Beatles of course!), then with his wife and band mates in the group Wings and continues today with an amazing solo career that spans over 30 years. He has released countless albums and hit singles. He sells out concerts on almost every continent.


Iris Mesa (also known as my mom) she has been designing flowers for a local flower shop here in Tucson, Arizona for over 12 years. She has designed countless weddings, large corporate and government events. I am pretty sure she can make a corsage in her sleep. Her arrangements sit in mansions, apartments, houses, hospitals, gravesides and offices all over town. She takes classes and reads trade magazines to keep up her craft.

So what is the common thread these 3 individuals share? They are artists and their art last only minutes, hours or days. I love sushi so I know that it does not take an hour to eat a great roll. I have been to a Paul McCartney concert so I know that they do not last forever (as much as I wanted it to), after a few hours the show ends and the music stops. I worked with my mom for 10 of the 12 years she has been designing so I know that her clients do not receive arrangements that last forever (even silks need to refreshed and refurbished eventually.) Making sushi, performing music and designing a floral arrangement takes talent and skill; those skills are harnessed after years of practice.

They are all rock stars in their own right and the public enjoys the fruits of their labor. Out of the three only two perform in front of a crowd. My mom, like most florists, spend most of her design time in the backroom of a shop. Everything is created away from the public and only viewed once it is complete. Not to say there has not been times where clients have asked to take a peek behind the scenes or she has come up to the front counter to ask a question or finish a vase with perhaps a bow. Other than that, she really does not spend a lot of time upfront.



This brings me to what I believe was Hitomi Gilliam’s vision during her one week only pop up store in Vancouver, Canada.Flower designers are artists and rock stars! Why should they be confined to the back room? The public needs to see how talented floral designers are and all the work that they do behind closed doors. Why their talent is valuable and why purchasing from a local flower shop should be always top of mind. Not everyone can put together a beautiful hand-tied bouquet that when placed in a vase falls in all the right places and stays perfectly round. You (designers) are MacGyver’s! You can take wire, tape, sticks, flowers and almost anything else and create art. That art conveys emotions for people who just cannot find the right words to express how they feel.


Over the course of a year, Hitomi assembled a group of rock stars who worked hours on end at this pop-up flower shop. It was a combination flower shop, art exhibit and fashion show stage. It was incredible. Every day the shop evolved. It was a collaborative effort all around. Hitomi had a vision and the rest she left up to women and men who live and breathe this industry. The excitement was palpable and very contagious. It did not take long for my friend and co-worker, Jenn McJunkins and me to be swept up in the excitement. We wanted to be a part of what was happening. We helped sweep, clean flowers, wrap orchid plants and even talk to customers. The environment was such a positive one that I do not think I heard a single negative thing come out of anyone (unless it had to do with the cold weather outside hahaha.) Even at the end of their long days the crew was still smiling and laughing and excited for what the new day would bring. The NeoFlora team took us in and made us feel like we were part of the amazing event unfolding before our very eyes. To say we were sad to leave after the shop was only open 1 day would be an understatement.


Over the course of the week that followed, Hitomi and her rock stars performed for people young and old. They adorned men and women in haute couture style designs and costumes, inspired other designers to think outside the backroom and informed people on what being a florist is all about. My favorite pictures from that week were the pictures of the children learning and designing. It is these young ones that will grow up to appreciate their florist and will turn to them when they need flowers.

NeoFlora may have only been open for 1 week but I am sure they left a huge impression on the city. People will remember the week when flowers took over 1200 Robson St Vancouver, BC Canada.

If you would like to learn more about NeoFlora check out our interview with Hitomi here and our video recap here.



Here is a list of the amazing designers who contributed to an amazing week:

Dawn Block CFD, Gloria Cheung (The Flower Factory), Bronia DePedrina, Aniko Kovacs CFD (Garlands Florists), Susanne Law AIFD, Diane Levings CFD (Full Blooms Flowers), Alexis MacLeod AIFD (Simply Perfect Flowers), Stephanie Lee (Balconi Flowers), Yukari Mitsui AIFD, Sharrai Morgan AIFD (Holly’s Fine Flowers), Ania Norwood AIFD, Lottie Nys AIFD, Kim Oldis AIFD, Poppy Parson CFD (Smart Flowers), Cindy Pham, Brenna Quan, Lisa Russo, Kyo Sada (Zwada Home), Arthur Williams CFD (Babylon Floral Designs), Demi Wu, Don Zwaryk (Zwada Home) and, of course,  Hitomi Gilliam AIFD.




NeoFlora Video: Hitomi Gilliam AIFD

Here’s our video of Hitomi Gilliam AIFD speaking to the first floral fashion show audience, which attendees were industry only, about NeoFlora and thanking all of the sponsors, members and designers that made NeoFlora’s inaugural event possible.

The new generation of floristry was truly reflected in this great event!


NEOflora & Hitomi

It is thrilling for me when I find something in our floral industry to be different – new flower varieties, cool design, upcoming designers, and so on. So when I stumbled upon NEOflora on Facebook, I was thrilled and knew I wanted to share what this organization is doing with you, our community. I had the pleasure of working with THE Hitomi Gilliam AIFD to provide you with the interview below. Enjoy!



For those who may not have heard about NeoFlora, can you describe the purpose of the organization?

NEOflora 20/20 is a non-profit association formed by a group of forward thinking florists to create a new culture in the global floral art and design community. Its intent is to increase public awareness and respect for the floral design profession. It is an organization to encourage and to promote creative innovation in floristry, to create opportunities to discover, anticipate and create floral trends by way of showcasing our talents directly to the consumers. We feel that being aware of general trends, and being current with all the latest new products from manufacturers, growers, vendors in our industry – that we can begin to be the creators of floral trends from within our industry instead of coming from outside. Its time to own floral directions – by showing consumers what professional floristry is all about and share all the latest trends we are formulating with flowers with them.


What do you think is the biggest business challenge that professional floral designers face in the years to come?

The biggest challenge for florist today is profitability. Most florists are struggling to compete at the low end, high volume type of market. The business in most part is competing with everyone selling at a lower price – a battle which we are not able to win. As long as we don’t take the stand as florists to earn the higher mark-up and feel confident to charge what we need to charge as a professional, florists are doomed. There need to be a clear distinction between mass marketers (low prices) and professional florists (high prices). The mass marketers sell to the indiscriminating everyday flower buyers looking for good prices vs. professional florists who sell to discriminating flower buyers who seek professional services, expertise, exceptional range of floral products sourced from around the world and latest styles and trends. Profitability is not possible without being confident to sell your services at its face value, not for less.


Who founded NeoFlora?

Hitomi Gilliam AIFD shared the vision with several of her colleagues in Vancouver, Canada.


When did NeoFlora become a formal society of floral artists?

NEOflora 20/20 became a registered association in July 2012.


NeoFlora will have its inaugural event at the end of October can you give us the details?

The association’s first project is NEOflora 20/20, the first ever Floral POP UP Store in Vancouver, Canada which will open for 7 days (October 25-31) at 1200 Robson St – one of the busiest corner location on the busiest shopping street in downtown Vancouver. The purpose of this project is multiple fold. The store will be a showcase of floral talents from Canada and abroad – many designers are travelling from near and far to lend their hands to be part of this ground breaking concept. The store will also be a showcase of the latest in floral products – introducing the consumers to the newest varieties of flowers from around the world in hopes of creating demands for the new and unusual. There will be new hardgoods products, vases, accessories, etc. which will be used to create demand for some of the nicest new products by way of the consumers. We will be test marketing creative skus of design work to complete a survey at the end of the project of what turns on our customers. Experimentation and learning about digital social media savviness and communication revolution to influence buying. We will also stage 3 Floral Fashion Runway Show on 3 evenings at the store. 2 of the 3 are casual and fun Floral Showcase on the Runway with models showcasing current fashion and lifestyle. The other show is a Bridal Runway Show – many latest ideas on bridal designs, bouquets, flowers to wear, table designs, etc.


I noticed that your site states that “NeoFlora 20/20” will be a biennial event.  Do you know of any plans for the next event that will take place in 2 years (hopefully something in the U.S.)? 

Yes, NEOflora 20/20 will be a biennial event here in Vancouver. 2012 event is upcoming. 2014, 2016, 2018 are 3 more biennial events before we hit 2020, or 20/20. We are hoping by the time 20/20 comes – we will definitely be a floral force in the face of the consumers!!

As far as other locations, perhaps in the U.S…. We would like to aspire to setting up POP-UPS throughout the country, in assisting those who have the passion to take on this incredibly challenging and rewarding project. We hope to put together a brief manual on how to set up a POP-UP Store from beginning to the end.


I’m thinking that there will be many who would love to attend the event, but aren’t able to make it this year.  What does NeoFlora have planned to share the 20/20 event worldwide?

NEOflora 20/20 will be shared with everyone watching world-wide. Through Facebook, we will broadcast by video stream daily from the POP UP store. All photos – sights and sounds of the project will be posted on Facebook. All our fans world-wide can follow the journey. We welcome all those who are interested in this concept to apply for membership or pledges to support our event. Everyone is welcome to make any suggestions for our future mission.


If our readers would like to get involved, what can they do?

To join, please go to


How would you describe your design style?

My signature design style would best be described as Modern Linear, Architectural, Sculptural and Interpretive Oriental.


What or who inspires you?

Art, Architecture and Fashion inspires me the most – all modern but includes classics – Andy Goldsworthy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Daniel Liebeskind, Alexander McQueen, etc.


If had to pick just one (I know it is nearly impossible) what would be your favorite flower and why?

Gloriosa Lily has been my favorite forever… Its attitude is very high spirited, fearless and youthful. It show confidence as it struts its own stuff so beautifully.


Tell us a short floral story. Have you ever had a strange floral request? Created something wonderful out of a sticky situation?

All the best stuff has come from creating something wonderful in the most challenging situation. Somehow, under pressure our minds kick in overdrive and spits out really incredible alternatives.

Have you ever felt like MacGyver and used your mad floral skills in a non-floral situation?

I have many times used my floral design teaching skills to teach to non-florists about other topics such as life skills, reaching your full potential, creativity, etc.


What is your favorite color combination right now?

Favorite color combination? With flowers – brights, fuchsia and lime green, orange and hot pink, etc.

Favorite color to wear – black only so that flowers show up best against it.


What is your best piece of advice for new comers into the floral industry?

My advice to any newcomers – begin your career with solid foundation in elements and principles of design, mechanics and techniques, methods and systems of design, styles and trends. Be sure to upgrade your knowledge regularly – you can’t ever learn enough!!!



[all design photographs: Philippe Martin-Morice Photography from ‘Creative Edge’ of Flowers& Magazine]


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