By Jill Brooke
Celebrity florist Jeff Leatham got the prized opening perch at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) show causing some “shock” from loyal award-winning local talent to the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Yes, the uber-hip Los Angeles-based Leatham is a favored florist to the Kardashian clan – and just collaborated with Kim Kardashian’s launch of her perfume KKW – but he also has been doing the flowers for the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia and was a featured florist for the New York Botanical Garden’s orchid show.
In fact, the Utah-born florist gained mega-celebrity status twenty years ago from his lobby installations at the Four Seasons George V in Paris where he was mentored by the legendary florist, Christian Tortu. Leatham later was awarded the prestigious “Knighthood” -“Chevalier de L’Order des Arts et Letters,” no small feat for a U.S. florist to pass the sniff test of the style-minded French.
So yes, he is a big deal and a big get for the Philadelphia Flower Show.
“A lot of floral artists are calling me and complaining about Jeff getting this coveted spot but I am just going to focus on the display I have inside and make it wonderful,” said one longtime contributing florist.
As far as the naysayers, the laconic Mathew McConaughey lookalike sighs with frustration. All those climbing vines can obscure the joy of his rosy accomplishments.
“Especially in this social media world, there is a lot of jealousy, pure jealousy,” he says. “Unfortunately, that’s what success means.”
Leatham says he’s still the guy who worked his way up and “paid my dues like everyone else.” “People look at me as this golden child but I’m still the one to this day who will be processing the flowers, sweeping the floors and delivering flowers in my truck,” he says. Though now he’s more of a teacher to other florists and thoroughly enjoying “product collaborations.”
Because of his flair with color and understanding of architectural underpinnings, his production collaborations are plentiful, popping up like Johnny jump-ups in backyard gardens.
These days those collaborations include William Sonoma for upcoming holiday decor, his crystal vase design collection “Fleurology” and Jeff Leatham by Waterford Crystal, a book next spring, to add to his bookshelf of “Flowers by Jeff Leatham,” “Flowers by Design” and “Jeff Leatham – Visionary Floral and Design by Rizzoli.” Plus he starred in the docu-series, “Flowers Uncut.” He’s also just launched “Bloom Bundle,’’ a door-to-door delivery service for special cherry-picked flowers.
Leatham may have to navigate some prickly thorns and hurt feelings but considering his outsized budget compared to most at the Philadelphia Flower Show, as well as his big, bold and beautiful blooms that seduce and enchant, he will show why he is, as Oprah Winfrey commented, “the greatest florist of all time.”
This year marks the first time the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia will be a sponsor for the Philadelphia Flower Show which just announced it will have the most designers, gardens and floral displays in the show’s 193-year history. That’s also because it is the first time the oldest running flower show in the United States will take place outdoors in South Philadelphia’s FDR Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, starting June 5th – 13th.
After all, hotels have been great resources for floral talent since they hire big-name florists to attract clients to their establishments. Although florists are thrilled to create wedding displays for blushing brides and their emotional families, the most desired jobs are from hotels since they pay weekly for grand gorgeous bouquets and there’s no need for hand-holding or calming jittery nerves on a big day.
“It has long been a dream of ours to be part of this iconic Philadelphia event,” says Ben Shank, General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. “Jeff Leatham’s vision of large scale, organic lines juxtaposed with the existing architectural structure of the Olmsted Pavilion at FDR Park will create a never-before-seen moment for the Flower Show and Philadelphia.”
Leatham looks forward to his installation bringing joy to the many people who will travel from around the country to see the show.
Come the fall, he will launch his own personal fragrance – gender neutral – that isn’t linked to his longtime friend Kim Kardashian. Though Kim Kardashian loves gardenias because as Leatham explains, “her father had them in the entrance to his home and she would smell them coming inside” their perfume line didn’t include this special flower. Instead the KKW Fragrances includes Desert Rose, Jasmine Air and Night Iris. These selections were designed to be what people think of at different times of the day, “the vibe,” such as morning, afternoon and midnight sultry.
Turns out that Kim Kardashian also loves another flower besides gardenias. It’s called Quicksand Desert rose, a particular blush color that she likes around her. “You can’t call something quicksand,” explains Leatham, referencing the popular bridal flowers with the sandy cream petals. “So we called it Desert Rose.” Jasmine Air, which reminds Kardashian of her mother’s jasmine bushes where she grew up, has notes of vanilla, Bulgarian rose and is her particular favorite while Leatham has affection for the Night Iris, for its sexiness. For his own personal fragrance, there will also be sexiness in different notes.
Because to Leatham, blossoms are playfully sexy as well as fun and aesthetically pleasing. With his team, he plans to find as many intersections as possible to grow his fame as well as his empire. Efforts, he adds, which feed his passionate love of flowers and allow him to be an artist with them. After all, as a French writer wrote, “What is a flower? A giant sexual organ in its Sunday best.”
Luckily, we have Leatham who knows how to trot out these flowers and dress them with both sass and class to an ever-growing audience of devoted fans.
Full details for the 2021 Philadelphia Flower Show can be found at: www.phsonline.org/the-flower-show.
Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD and floral editor for aspire design and home magazine
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, FPD, Instagram