When it comes to decorating at an event or occasion, flowers are the natural choice. This morning, we met up with Alistair Fenech, the owner and lead floral designer at Alistair Floral Design, and a very good friend of ours. We’ve collaborated with Alistair on an umpteenth number of events. With the preparations for the holiday season and the new year just around the corner, we catch up with Alistair to go through the new wedding trends for 2020.
Event catering is our forte; everything else falls outside the realm of our expertise. That is why we collaborate with people like Alistair, experts in their own field who add that mystical touch and turn the mundane into the extraordinary.
We meet him at Casino Maltese. Flowers crowd every corner: yellow lilies with bright-eyed daisies, lipstick-red roses fanning out around a heart of pink chrysanthemums, winking blue violets smothered underneath a flood of gypsophila – there’s almost too much choice, so many shapes and sizes and colours. It is hard to imagine how all of these different flowers can become a wedding trend or fall under a singular wedding theme.
Flowers are an accent-piece. Done well, they enhance the venue in a subtle and quiet way, catching the eye without screaming at you. Flower decoration is an art and like any piece of art it needs that unique balance of colour, dark green leaves, a froth of neutral colours to make the brighter petals pop and coloured ribbons to hold them together. The bouquet is a leitmotif for all weddings.
Alistair greets us with flowers in hand. Whether it’s at a meeting or grabbing a coffee, he brings blooms with him, always fresh, a pop of colour against his jeans and his shirt. It’s for those ‘just in case’ bursts of inspiration, those moments where words melt into floral arrangements for event catering. Sometimes, he brings flowers because he likes showing us what’s trending in wedding themes.
Our interview is brief.
1. Before you went into floristry, was there anything that you thought you might enjoy doing?
No, not really! My father is a pâtissier by profession, and when I was starting out as a freelance florist, I would work from their bakery, but I never really wanted to do anything but floral design. It was while I was working from their bakery that my brand - Alistair Floral Design - was born. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
2. Have you always been drawn to flowers?
I wouldn’t say always, but for a big part of my life, yes. I was 14 when a neighbour - who was a florist - introduced me to floral design. I’d go help them out on a few occasions, and that went on for years. Then, at 18, I did the floristry for two family weddings, and then a year later, I went to Belgravia, in London, to undertake a technical course in Floristry and Flower Arranging.
3. What goes through your mind when you're planning a bridal bouquet for a client?
There are many things that go through my mind to always ensure that the bouquet design is flawless. It really depends on the situation at hand.
The most important considerations when creating a bouquet is the colour, the style, and the mood board for the wedding. These are critical for me to know, to create a beautiful bridal bouquet; from there, it simply comes naturally to me as I’ve been creating bridal bouquets for over 20 years now.
Bridal bouquets are actually the most personal design I make. Each bouquet has to reflect the personality of the client, and it’s one of the most crucial elements of the wedding - I’m always honoured when a bride entrusts me with making her bouquet and florals for her big day.
4. What is your day like?
It really depends on the month as it’s always something different! Usually I’m super busy with wedding floral consultations, appointments with suppliers, coordinating events and weddings, whilst dealing with any unforeseen challenges due to the nature of the industry we are in.
A florist’s day starts very early in the morning and you never know till what time your day will end. The passion keeps me going
5. Are there any hidden pitfalls you're constantly aware of when you're planning for an event?
It’s not really a pitfall, but I do take time management and quality very seriously, not only when planning an event or wedding but also for day-to-day fresh flower delivery.
My designs are built on quality florals and foliage; they are the foundation of my brand. Keeping track of trends is very important for me in order to forecast wedding trends.
6. What goes into planning the flowers for a large event?
I usually start by visiting the venue, discussing the whole layout of the event, discussing colour schemes involved in invitations, linen, furniture, etcetera - it’s important to understand the theme and the story before I start planning, all points are taken into consideration when choosing flowers, foliage, and props and this is what makes me create bespoke creations suited for the personality and the theme.
7. Do you have flowers that you always include in a bouquet?
No, not really. This changes according to the bride, the colour scheme, style, the trend, and so on.
I don’t have specific flowers which I always include because I always try to create something different and unique for every client. Certain types of flowers just don’t go with every style.
When considering a style or mood it's always important to visualise what you're doing and picking the blooms that will go perfectly with style and more importantly where they'll be placed.
8. What do you think about the way flowers come in and out of style? Does it follow fashion trends, or something else?
There isn’t an exact rule for trends in florals! Specific flower trends, most of the time, are based on whatever trending style is going around fashion and interior design, but sometimes certain styles collide and create a new trend. For example, the Bohemian Elegant trend, our predicted wedding trend for 2020, is a mixture of boho, timeless elements, and trendy style.
Every designer has his or her own style, which reflects itself in his or her designs - and that shows!
9. Are there any flowers that you feel are underused and would really do well in any event or bouquet?
For sure! There are various reasons for why they’re not used; sometimes it’s because of their colour or style or the seasonality element - you would like to include that particular flower however it’s the wrong timing of the year for the flowers.
10. When you started out, did you have a different way of working?
Yes, your style and work ethos evolve with your experiences and your career. When I look back at the designs I created in my first year, I can see the difference from now, however I’m sure they were very valid at that time. I appreciate my first designs and my first years. It means a lot to me, really, to have been young and new and to have had people trusting me with my designs back then, enjoying my first creations
11. How has that changed?
It tends to evolve depending on trends, but really the most important thing is experience. You’re constantly learning in floristry.
12. Can you elaborate a bit more on the floral design trends for 2020?
Although wedding trends change quite rapidly, and quite a lot of floral trends tend to be overshadowed by the desires of the client, 2020 will likely see a lot of bouquets leaning hard on bohemian elegance. The mishmash of styles can suit quite a number of tastes and individuals, as it draws both from the luxuriant finish of more high-end, elegant bouquets, and the relaxed mismatch of boho styles.
For the Bohemian Elegant floral centrepiece, I've used hydrangea for the top with a complementing mix of foliage including eucalyptus Populus, panicum and golden bear grass for a more elegant look. The use of foliage at the top creates a more boho style, and makes it look earthy and relaxed. For the lower part, we've used roses, orchids and gypsophila with minimal to no foliage to ensure that we create the perfect balance between the Boho and elegance.
13. Would you be able to recreate this style in multiple formats, or would it be difficult to carry over for, say, a corsage or a buttonhole?
With regards to the buttonhole, creating a design which fits the bohemian elegant, and in reality other styles, isn't always straightforward as the space of design is very limited. I always try to use the same colour palette as the style chosen, in the case of the groom's buttonhole, I've used a rose which will last without water, a golden stem of fern and a touch of eucalyptus Populus.
14. What design elements would you keep in mind when working on the bridal bouquet?
For the bridal bouquet, I wanted the elegant touch of the floral trend to outshine a bit the Boho elements. This has been done by using a complex variety of flowers and fillers including roses, spray roses, phalaenopsis, vanda orchids, sweet avalanche, bombastic roses, lisianthus, scabiosa pod, waxflower. To create the boho element, we've used the same type of foliage as the centrepiece arrangement but minimised the length and amount of the panicum and I've created some arches using the golden bear grass. That is to ensure that the bridal bouquet doesn't lose its shape and elegant touch. Most of the foliage used at the bottom part is eucalyptus Populus.
15. How do you ensure that the flowers you pick will last and look beautiful throughout an event?
All the flowers used are all premium wedding florals which have been sourced from all around the world from the most reputable growers - ensuring the quality and durability of each bloom.
As Alistair talks us through his life, his passions, his creative process, he never stops moving. We follow him around Casino Maltese, watching him put together centre-pieces from foliage and flowers. His voice is deep and soft and grave, but Alistair is like that even in the midst of a meeting. Socially, he prefers to stay on the outskirts, letting people explain their point of view before he interjects. One-on-one, it’s hard not to get drawn in by Alistair’s way of talking, by how he sounds when he references flower names like books or bands.
There’s an element of romance in the way that Alistair works. The room is mellowed by the flowers, hard edges and cold marble are softened by pops of pink and cream. When he talks, that romance comes out again, in how his voice lifts and dips as he talks about floral arrangements and events. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up with the pace his mind works and what he sees in his mind’s eye.
Alistair’s whole life is flowers. We’ve seen him working events 7 days a week, getting up early for deliveries, and staying on to stave off any potential crisis. With everyone we work with, there’s an element of harmony: we work with people we admire, with people we understand and who understand us, and with people we can easily work with. Alistair is one such person: a warm and friendly professional, faultlessly precise, incredibly creative, and a joy to watch.