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Van Vliet

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Remco Van Vliet was just fifteen when he visited Manhattan for the first time. “I fell in love with New York,” he recounts. Years later, he would leave his native Holland to relocate to the Big Apple, work at a flower import company, establish his own business of Van Vliet & Trap Special Event Design, and eventually attain the prestigious position of Events Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On April 13, Van Vliet will speak at the Lauritzen Gardens Spring Guild Luncheon about his childhood in Holland and tenure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art while treating attendees to floral arranging demonstrations followed by a question and answer session.

You could almost say Van Vliet had no choice but to follow in the generational footsteps of his grandfather and father. His family owned a wellknown floral design firm; his father called the DUTCH ROYAL FAMILY a client. Van Vliet says when you are born and raised in the flower industry, helping out is a foregone conclusion. Those Saturdays were not relaxing days of rest spent unwinding from a week’s worth of studying. Van Vliet produced forty to fifty arrangements on his “day off.”
 

Initially, Van Vliet pursued a potential career as an architect. He majored in art history and graphic design in college. Though he took a familial detour into floral design, he nonetheless values his art history background as the source of inspiration for many of his current day creations.
 

His style is described as “courtly, Old World elegance combined with edgy, urban glamour.” Of this seemingly contradictory style, Van Vliet shrugs, “I hate to be put in a box.” Many floral designers are noted for one signature design, like “drowning” flowers by submerging them in water or working with one particular type of blossom. But Van Vliet does not like to adhere to a single, prescribed way of doing things. He loves the contemporary use of intertwining non-floral, natural elements with blossoms but is also drawn to traditional compositions (a nod to his art history background).
 

Contemporary or traditional, Van Vliet maintains that flowers should be the most important element of a composition. “Flowers are beautiful by themselves; they don’t need enhancing,” says Van Vliet. He has seen colored marshmallows and chicken wire find their way into floral arrangements. This leaves him cold.
 

Texture, however, is very important. Eschewing utilitarian fencing products and artificially colored confections, Van Vliet opts instead for natural elements that harmonize with nature, not detract from it. He’ll pair roses with their hips and richly colored foliage. He’ll incorporate seed pods with arrangements of both large and small flowers in their varying stages of the life cycle. His favorite blossom is Sandersonia. Van Vliet finds this New Zealand native’s bright green foliage and tangerine bells simultaneously “playful and elegant.” Other favorites are lush ranunculus and dainty poppies.
 

’’flowers are beautiful by themselves;
they don’t need enhancing"

~ REMCO VAN VLIET
 

In fact, if you have a handful of poppies, you have the foundation for a beautiful arrangement. His advice to the hostess looking to create a statement for her dinner party: “Don’t try to copy an elaborate table setting with multiple varieties of flowers. Simplicity is always the best thing. You don’t have to go over the top.” In the spring, he looks to bunches of daffodils or tulips (from Holland, of course). His other “go to” arrangement isn’t really an arrangement at all. He likes to fill an old-fashioned milk bottle with a handful of brightly-hued poppies.
 

Van Vliet has seen if not a surge than an increased interest in floral design in his adopted home town of Manhattan. Why are flowers experiencing a renaissance in the quintessential Big City? New Yorkers learned, quite painfully, that “safe careers” in finance and business were not all that secure in the flat lining economy. So they sought careers by which they could make a living, perhaps not as affluent a living, but one that would make them happy. Enrollment at the DUTCH FLOWER SCHOOL IN NEW YORK, Van Vliet’s dreamchild, mirrors this career shift with increasing numbers of young people registering to acquire the skills to arrange flowers and plan events. “Making money is important,” maintains Van Vliet, “but also being happy with your job has become more important.”
 

"making money is important, but also being happy
with your job has become more important"

~ REMCO VAN VLIET
 

And Van Vliet is. His clients include such heavy hitters as CONDE NAST, SAKS FIFTH AVENUE, THE FRENCH EMBASSY, CARNEGIE HALL, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, ESTEE LAUDER, and Elegant Bride Magazine. He enjoys his creative free range at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and partnership with the museum’s different art departments. But he also finds inspiration in individual customers.
 

Brides, he notes, are more confident in their choice of flowers for their big day. Not too long ago, brides would present him with a photo of what they wanted, expecting him to replicate someone else’s idea. Now, they are at the helm creatively, seeking a unique statement for their wedding day.
 

Van Vliet will share all this when he comes to Omaha to speak at the LAURITZEN GARDENS SPRING GUILD LUNCHEON. It’s an informal and informative format. He will show slides of events he has planned around the country and at the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. He will talk about his childhood in Holland and his career path that has led to his position as one of New York’s premier event planners. Guests attending the luncheon will learn where flowers come from and watch Van Vliet make several arrangements on stage while he facilitates a question and answer session.
 

April may bring showers from the west, but it also brings Van Vliet and his flowers from the east. After this winter, that’s a prize worth its weight in gold.
 

For more information on the Lauritzen Garden Spring Guild Luncheon, visit omahabotanicalgardens.org.

-end- metroMAGAZINE

 

 

 

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