By Jill Brooke
While it’s so exciting that New York City will have a floral festival created by the newly minted L.E.A.F. group this weekend in the Meatpacking District, we were so upset not to see Floratorium get the respect this talented team deserves.
Floratorium’s innovative and transformative work creating gorgeous floral outside installations helped over 60 restaurants survive scaffolding, freezing cold and makeshift structures during the dreary days of the pandemic – restaurants including Marea, Cafeteria, Sola Pasta Bar, Vicolina, Lola Taverna and others – which made Floratorium not only a brand to be admired but contributed to NYC’s survival in providing light to the darkness.
“Their work brought people to the restaurant and helped us immensely,” says Sola Pasta Bar owner Simone Tiligna. “We now hired them to do a new project.”
It boggles the mind that Moira Breslin, founder of L.E.A.F, didn’t think to include Floratorium’s Carlos Franqui for its first annual Festival of Flowers in a meaningful way.
Surely Jeffrey LeFrancois, Executive Director of Meatpacking Business Improvement District, passed by Floratorium’s large-scale fashion district installation that is universally beloved in also helping “lift the spirits” of the struggling fashion industry and sparked numerous store commissions for Floratorium. Did Breslin not dine at one of the many restaurants with the Floratorium plaque?
Instead, Floratorium only will be part of the festival because the former fashion stylist’s friend, Taylor Skye, commissioned him to help her out. We consider the absence of Floratorium an inexcusable oversight at best as well as a thorny injustice.
“I was surprised not to be asked to do any big installs since that’s what we have been doing non-stop through the pandemic,” says Franqui when contacted by flowerpowerdaily. “But we will be there to support Taylor Skye and the entire flower community as I have always done.”
A L.E.A.F. representative says he was contacted but Franqui disagrees. “They never contacted me – only to ask permission to share a reel from my Instagram,” he says.
Owner Carlos Franqui should be treated like a New York hero and already holds the deep-rooted affection of so many people, especially restauranteurs who struggled to not be in hot water with sinking revenues and opportunities. The public also cheered Franqui and developer Patricia Gonzalez as they parachuted in like S.E.A.L. fighter pilots to the rescue with the suggestion – soon copied – of creating Mediterranean alfresco designs.
“I’m very proud that we helped make people feel they were on vacation someplace in the Mediterranean” while bundled up in winter coats and scarfs, says Franqui. They also single-handedly weeded out the false notion that faux flowers – which could endure the cold temperatures – couldn’t be artfully assembled along with greenery to create enchanting environments since these floral installations could rise to as much as $30,000.
As the New York Post’s food and real estate columnist Jennifer Gould wrote, the striking outdoor installations actually boosted revenues for restauranteurs by “drawing in diners eager to forget they’re eating in a former parking spot” and having “ugly city scaffolding disappear under an intricate swath of vines popping with flowers.”
Not only did Floratorium’s designs help bring in clients who wanted to be part of the Floratorium experience and cheerful ambiance but the installations became catnip for pedestrians and Instagram moments.
Of course, L.E.A.F. will have over 100 talented florists as part of this flower festival that will be scattered across the plazas and within retail and hospitality storefronts. Many of those florists are some of our favorites including fleursBELLA, Calvert Crary of Flower School NY, Damselfly, East Olivia, Renny and Reed and Lewis Miller
However, when you think of all the amazing floral installations that have popped up to bring joy, positivity and hope to New Yorkers this past difficult year, two people come to mind.
The first is from the Pied Piper of Petals and the grandmaster of the Floral Flash – Lewis Miller Design – whose cascading floral installations in unexpected places ranging from trash cans to park benches – have become legendary treats copied and coveted around the globe.
But Carlos Franqui has joined Miller’s pantheon of greats. And this year, because of the pandemic and Floratorium’s stellar work, this was their moment, their time.
“We are delighted that Taylor Skye Flowers, a great supplier of preserved flowers and greenery, has partnered with the incredible team at Floratorium to work on the plinth she decided to commission,” says a L.E.A.F. spokesperson.
Hopefully, this questionable oversight on L.E.A.F. festival’s choices will be remedied next year.
We look forward to giving you a review on all the floral artists participating in the festival this weekend and hope it brings joy and positivity to many many of New York City’s residents.
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