In conversation with Celebrity Florist, Rob Van Helden
With Valentine’s Day just round the corner, we thought we’d speak to someone who is at the forefront of his industry and is perfectly placed to share his years of romantic expertise! Originally from Holland, Rob Van Helden turned the floristry business he started 30 years ago from the back of his estate car into one that is now synonymous with the best of international floristry. RVH floral design sets a standard for artistic accomplishment often copied but rarely attained. Alongside his talented team, including sister Patrice, Rob has conceptualised events and occasions across the world from Europe, to Asia, and from the Far East to the USA, creating works of art for the royalty and celebrities alike.
Rob’s unique skill lies in ability to turn each event into a one-of-kind experience, enhancing and expressing moods with flowers. He has created displays for occasions including Princess Margaret’s 70th birthday, Elton John’s civil partnership, the Beckham’s World Cup party and the Alfred Dunhill and James Bond film premieres. Most recently, he has diversified the business to bring his specialist insight into prop hire and a range of design consultancy services for clients globally. With that in mind, we can’t think of anyone better than the man himself to give us some insight into the world of luxury floral design, and hopefully we can pick up some inspiration along the way.
Arabella: Hi Rob, thanks so much for speaking to us and giving us some floral inspiration for Valentine’s Day! Your work is renowned around the world, and you cater for a number of diverse events, from weddings to intimate gatherings. However, if you could describe your aesthetic in a simple sentence, what would it be?
Rob Van Helden: When creating any display, I believe in volume – in using large amounts of a particular kind of flower. I also like to add other elements like herbs, vegetables and fruits to create interest and give an extra dimension to displays.
AL: Are there any other things that you need to consider aside from the display itself? Presumably every space and event are different, and the displays themselves don’t act alone to create the ambience you’re after?
RVH: You’re right – it’s not all about the flowers, it’s very much about the props and creating a whole look. We’ve invested a lot of money in beautiful candlesticks, night-lights, urns, plinths and candles – you name it to bring an overall vision to life.
AL: It sounds like a lot of work goes into creating the right display then! What are some of the challenges you’ve faced trying to get it just right?
RVH: We have had some big challenges, for example, doing a birthday party in the Maldives where there were no flowers available and everything had to be flown in. We’ve also had to bring in flowers off a barge in certain locations, because we can’t get them in any other way. We go to great lengths to ensure even the smallest details are correct. For Harrods jewellery, we had our painter examine their marble so he could recreate it exactly on the urns we used. It blended perfectly and looked stunning.
AL: It sounds like you’re very detail orientated. How do you make sure you’re creating the right display for your client, when they might not necessarily know what they want or how to explain their vision for the event?
RVH: I always ask myself whether I would be pleased with the flowers if it were my own special occasion. I personally meet every client who comes through the door, listening to them, supporting and guiding them through the process and suggesting ideas. It’s a very personal business and my clients trust me to make their important event beautiful. I go to the flower market every morning to pick and choose a client’s flowers myself. I’m always there on the big day, no matter what kind of occasion it is, making sure that everything looks fabulous.
AL: Presumably not all your clients are individuals – how do you go about creating the right display for a hotel, for example?
RVH: We actually recently created a ‘floral brand’ for a top South African hotel, to express its character and identity in stunning displays of flowers. This floral signature is something we’ve designed after meeting the clients, and again, it’s all about adding a personal touch to make people feel like they’re at home – even when they are travelling. It also communicates the values of the hotel in an elegant, contemporary way. I try to use local flowers wherever I work, because I believe in supporting the local economy whenever possible. People are proud of their own produce, and you have to be sensitive to that.
AL: You’ve been in this business a long time, and you’ve come a long way since. What is your favourite thing about your job?
RVH: I love the work I do because each day is different and the team I have are very talented and extremely professional. I find that we come up with new ideas every day – which is good because it really is a responsibility to make someone’s dreams come true.
AL: Finally, if you could give us any hints or tips for Valentine’s Day flowers (or for any tips for us to pass along to a special someone…) what would they be?
RVH: As I said, if I could sum up my aesthetic ethos in one simple sentence, it would be to go for volume. I’d wait until the person you’re trying to surprise is out of the house, and fill the space with vases of red roses, set the dining table for a lovely meal, and scatter rose petals on the bed. It works – we once did this for a client who was about to propose to his girlfriend and, needless to say, she said yes!
AL: Well we certainly wouldn’t say no! Thanks again Rob, it was lovely to speak to you.
We hope that our interview with Rob has provided a little bit of inspiration for you, or a special someone, ahead of Valentine’s Day. If you are thinking of passing this article along, then we’ve got a few more suggestions for a Valentine’s Day indulgence…
Gentlemen, if you’ve been forwarded this article then click through here and you can thank us later!