Around Town: A floral sense of design

Fleurs de Villes co-founders Tina Barkley and Karen Marshall didn’t have to think twice when deciding where to launch this year’s expanded edition of their unique fashion-design and fresh-florals event.

Barkley said returning to Mayfair Shopping Centre, where the seeds of last year’s inaugural edition were planted, was a no-brainer considering our reputation as Canada’s floral wonderland.
“Victoria is the perfect place to start our tour because it’s Canada’s flower capital,” said Barkley, referring to a four-city tour from Vancouver to Burlington, Ont., that will follow its run at Mayfair.

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The duo’s second annual event opened March 8 and ends today at the shopping centre, where a pop-up flower and gardening-supplies market was also held on Saturday.

A bonus, she said, is that this year’s event is tied to Tourism Victoria’s 42nd annual flower count, signalling the start of spring, even if skeptics are predicting our recent cold spells will affect this year’s blossom count.

The tradition dating back to the 1970s, a collaborative effort with the Butchart Gardens and Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, challenges residents of all ages to count blossoms.

What Tourism Victoria has described as an “astronomical 25.9 billion blossoms” were counted last year during the playful ritual meant to remind Canadians we have the mildest climate in the country.

“We were joking about that the other evening, whether we’ve seen the last of the flowers because of the weather,” said Barkley, recalling Tuesday night’s gala launch for Fleurs de Villes.

There has been no shortage of floral splendour at Mayfair Shopping Centre, which earned a Maple Leaf Silver Award at the ICSC Canadian Shopping Centre Awards for hosting the event’s Canadian première.

Today’s your last chance to see and cast your vote for the best of several floral dressed mannequins displayed in a gallery-like setting in the mall. The horticultural wonders give a dozen local florists, including Jenning’s Florist, Mayfair Flower Shop, Brown’s the Florist and Foxgloves Flowers, an opportunity to artistically showcase what they can do with hundreds of fresh blooms while teaming with leading-brand sponsors.

Another bonus this year was a creation by Platinum Floral Design’s Tina Barabanoff — a Duchess of Cambridge ensemble inspired by the white coat and red pillbox hat the duchess wore during her royal visit last September.

Barkley said they welcomed the chance to have the royal entry exhibited at the Empress Hotel and help drive traffic from there to Mayfair Shopping Centre.
“They’re also both under renovation at the moment, so there’s some nice synergy there,” she said.

Mayfair is undergoing a $72-million redevelopment scheduled for completion in fall 2018. The project includes retail expansion, more parking, improved access points and interior renovations.

Florists whose works are featured in Fleurs de Villes have often told Barkley how much they appreciate the chance to be able to think outside the box, she said.

“They’re showcasing their talent in a way they don’t normally have a chance to,” said Barkley. “It goes far beyond doing a bouquet of flowers. The sky’s the limit.”

While looking at photographs of their creations provides a sense of the artistry involved, nothing beats getting to see these floral eye-catchers in person, Barkley said.

“It’s like the freshness of the florals just bounces off the mannequin,” she said, noting the calibre of entries in this year’s event exceeded their expectations.

Describing Fleurs de Villes as a unique convergence of fashion, florals and community, Mayfair general manager Laura Poland said she was thrilled to be hosting it again this year.

“Mayfair is the destination for style in Victoria and this signature event is an excellent kickoff for spring fashion,” she said.

Fleurs de Villes continues at Burnaby’s Metrotown April 4-9; Edmonton’s Southgate Centre April 18-23; Ottawa’s Bayshore Centre May 2-17 and Burlington’s Mapleview Centre from May 9-14.

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