ARTICLES

An Intimate Talk With Fleurs de Villes Duo Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley

These two magnificent women create flower exhibitions that go beyond traditional floral displays, featuring fresh floral mannequins around the world.

By: THURSD. | 17-04-2024 | 7 min read
Floral Events Interviews
Fleurs de Villes Co-Founders

Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley, Co-Founders and partners at Fleurs de Villes are a powerful duo, taking the flower event world by storm. What makes their success shine bright at every floral event they have around the world? In this interview, they talk about everything FDV, dating back to how and when they started the business, the 'why' behind the name, and much more. Don't miss it!

Fleurs de Villes Created by Two Masterminds - Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley

Fleurs de Villes began as a seed of an idea five years ago in Vancouver, Canada, with two friends, Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley, who shared an innate love for flowers and marketing. The knowledge they were able to fuse, along with their lifetime experiences was the secret formula to what they have built nowadays.

In 2016, they founded Fleurs de Villes with the original concept of reimagining the conventional flower show format and elevating the floral industry by celebrating florists as artists. Since then, over 900 florists have had their work featured in over a hundred floral shows thanks to Karen and Tina's passion for promoting local floral talent, which they have taken to twenty-six cities across five countries.

 

Karen Marshall along with Tina Barkley from Fleurs de Villes
Karen Marshall (left) and Tina Barkley (right) Co-Founders of Fleurs de Villes

 

This dynamic pair is constantly growing the Fleurs de Villes brand. In this talk, they discuss their love of all things floral, and the idea behind the grand business and their stupendous events all over the world.

 

Fleurs de Villes flower mannequins
Artistic flower mannequins displayed through different Fleurs de Villes shows

 

Q: Can you tell us about the name 'Fleurs de Villes'?

Karen:

"The literal translation is 'Flowers of Cities,' which reflects our overall mission of promoting floral talent and experiences in international cities. It highlights the global luxury brand we are developing, which is supported by hyperlocal content in each city we pop up in."

 

Fleurs de Villes Artiste Show in Dallas
The winning design by Kate McLeod Studio during Fleurs de Villes 'ARTISTE' flower show held at North Park Center, Dallas, Texas in March 2024

 

Q: When it comes to local florists, how does Fleurs de Villes work with them?

Tina:

"Our host partners include some of the world's top shopping and entertainment destinations, botanic gardens, and historic houses and palaces to showcase stunning floral installations created by designers in their communities. This is regarded as a 'public luxury'. The work of these florists is rarely seen outside of private events. We are creating a platform to provide a memorable experience for all participants. We always laugh about the fact that we aren't florists. We just really love great local floral talent."

 

Karen Marshall with Tina Barkley and Natalie Kung
Tina and Karen presenting 'Florist Favorite' award to Natalie Kung from Lotus Flower Boutique, Vancouver

 

Q: What are a few decisive factors when it comes to choosing the location of events?

Karen:

"As our name indicates, Fleurs de Villes has a global perspective. We look for world class cities where we can share a variety of local floral and fauna, exceptional design talent, and expanded experiences unique to the region. No two shows are ever the same as we showcase cultural and botanical diversity. We are cultural story tellers and champions of artistic curation with our shows, so, we look for partners and cities who understand that, and have a good story to tell."

 

Floral mannequin by flower shack blooms
Floral mannequin by Flower Shack Blooms inspired by the beloved tragedy, La Traviata, set to grace the stage @thedallasopera for its 2024/2025 season opening in October 2024

 

Q: What are the sources of inspiration for the flower displays created at Fleurs de Villes and what are the technical considerations for each design?

Tina:

"Our florists, or Fleuristes as we call them, are incredibly talented. They draw inspiration from a variety of places including a painting in their mother’s home, a journey through breast cancer, or a vision that came to them in the night. Fleurs de Villes also creates over-arching themes for shows as further inspiration – think of a particular flower or color, or a brand partner or show focus.

Fleurs de Villes shows feature fresh flowers and typically last five to ten days. The length of the show, the location, the seasonality of the flowers, and the architecture of the structures are all factors considered.  What lies beneath the gown is frequently as intriguing as what appears on the outside."

 

Tina Barkley of Fleurs de Villes
Tina Barkley

 

Q: On a more personal note, when did you both discover your love for flowers?

Tina:

"There have always been flowers in my life and I have loved them since I was a little girl picking bachelor buttons and sweet peas in my grandparents’ garden."

Karen:

"My grandmother’s garden in northern Scotland was always full of hardy roses which smelled incredible so I have lovely memories associated with that. I was also very oddly obsessed with a giant red poppy which grew by our front door growing up. I couldn’t believe what emerged from the ground."

Q: If you were a flower, what would it be?

Karen:

"A pale pink cabbage rose (Rosa centifolia) in an English country garden or a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). It's so difficult to choose!"

Tina:

"I'd be the peony. As a Gemini, life is not a straight line for me. A peony transforms, evolves, and is made up of multiple flowers. From tight bud to complex flower to a whimsical finish, it’s 5 or 6 different flowers within a flower and I, too am constantly changing, and evolving. Karen is also a Gemini, so there are usually four of us in the room."

Q: Out of all the Fleurs de Villes shows you've had, which mannequin has been your favorite and touched you the most?

Tina:

"That is like asking me who is my favorite child!"

Karen:

"Every mannequin is a unique creation and all have touched my heart. However, the Queen Elizabeth I mannequin by Amie Bone, inspired by the Ditchley portrait at the National Portrait Gallery in London at our Covent Garden Show in 2019, brought together most spectacularly all of my interests, personal and professional. I love history, culture, beauty, and art."

 

Queen Elizabeth I mannequin
Queen Elizabeth I mannequin by Amie Bone

 

Q: How do you make flowers part of your lifestyle, fashion, and home decor?

Karen:

"Floral books and magazines - coming from a publishing background, I adore the printed page. When I'm not wearing black, I'll often add a floral print to my wardrobe. And I have a fabulous hydrangea hedge around my house."

Tina: 

"My house is filled with plants, and I have an unhealthy collection of vases and containers. When I bring flowers home, it's as if I've just purchased a new serious decor item, and I enjoy deciding which vase to use, whether to divide them into three smaller bouquets, and so on. It's like playtime."

 

Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley cofounders of Fleurs de Villes
Fleurs de Villes Co-Founders Karen Marshall (left) and Tina Barkley (right)

 

Q: What is your idea of the perfect flower arrangement to receive?

Tina:

"Flowers make us happy - is there such a thing as a bad floral arrangement? In the past, I've always been thrilled with a bouquet comprised of lots of flowers of the same type and color. There is something gorgeous in the simplicity of one bloom in abundance and tightly arranged. That said, I’m developing a taste for more complex bouquets. My absolute favorite at the moment is comprised of pinks with corals and shades of the same with shots of green. It has ranunculus for sure, ideally peonies and perhaps some gorgeous garden roses."

Karen:

"For me, it comes to something collected from a friend's garden. Sharing the beauty of a home-grown flower with another person demonstrates a true and loving friendship."

Q: Lastly, what flower has played a vital role in key moments of your life?

Karen:

"For sure roses. These queen flowers take me back to my grandmother’s garden, my son’s love of stopping to smell the roses, my eldest daughter’s love of Rose Turkish Delight from Fortnum and Mason, and my youngest’s rose pink ballet slippers. Roses are family love."

Tina:

"My European grandparents were avid gardeners, and the front of their house was always covered in sweet peas. When a flower is so present and yet such a gift at such a young age, it is impossible not to be moved by it. Every year, I plant sweet peas and inhale their scent deeply, transporting me back to the many summers of my childhood."

 

Karen and Tina are without a doubt two phenomenal women who set an example in the world of flowers and events. If you want to know more about their work around the world and check out their most recent 'ARTISTE' show, make sure to visit Fleurs de Villes' website and Instagram account.

 

Photos by @fleursdevilles.

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