Keep it simple and try not to mix and match colours, says celebrity florist Rob Van Helden
Rob Van Helden comes from the land of the tulip fields, those carpets of colour that are part of the clichés that Holland provokes. Now based in London, the florist is top-of-the-game, having done the floral designs for a Shilpa Shetty wedding here, an Elton John ball there, Pierce Brosnan’s wedding somewhere down the line, with Nelson Mandela’s 90 birthday party thrown in. Helden was in New Delhi recently, to participate in ‘The Wedding Atelier 2012’ at DLF Emporio.
Bouquets and serpents of green adorn his “twist” on a banquet table in the mall’s atrium. Most of the flowers used here — Singapore orchids, bells of Ireland, carnations, mini chrysanthemums, hypericum berries and Colombian hydrangeas — he explains, are locally sourced.
“I always try to make use, as much as possible, of local flowers because it is not easy to import flowers into India. You don’t want them to get stuck at Customs and have no flowers on the day,” says Van Helden, who’s worked on around 15 weddings in India.
It all started with a part-time job in Holland when he was a kid. “In weekends and in school holidays I used to help out at the local flower shop in our village. Not to do flowers — just to sweep up and clean flowers, and deliver them. Being Dutch, there’s always a love for flowers. I’m one of six children. My father used to bring flowers home for my mother. And when we — my brothers, sisters and I — started earning pocket money, we used to bring flowers for mom as well. So flowers have always been a big part of our family,” Van Helden recalls.
After a Management course in Holland, he joined Selfridges in London, where he asked to be put into the flower department. The job profile, though, was mostly managerial. He later put together a small team and formed his own company, with his sister Patrice joining him in London. It’s been 25 years.
As far as the flowers go, Van Helden’s premise is to not over-think it. “My style is to show off the flowers’ natural beauty, not to try to be too clever. Show one type of flower through a vase. I’m a big believer in the props you use as well. Flowers should be shown for what they are; that’s how they’re grown. One colour is more striking than trying to mix,” he lists.
“Everyone’s tastes are different and I try to go with everybody’s tastes and come up with new ideas. I’ve made myself believe that every wedding or every party is my own wedding or my own party. When you stand behind the scenes and you watch the guests walk in going ‘Wow! — That’s the biggest compliment you can get. Money can’t buy that.”
Pretty as hell they may be, but flowers die. Is the impermanence of his medium that rankles, the effort of days withering away after one day or night?
“If I look back at the number of parties I have done and the quantity of flowers that have been used, yes. You create something fabulous for one night and then it’s over and done with. That’s why I always check with my client if we can send the flowers off to a hospital, so people enjoy the flowers for another day or two. The flowers that we buy are at their best on the night of the party. But then, flowers make people happy; they are there for every occasion.”