In 2012, Belgian designer marked his debut with Christian Dior by hosting, hands down, the most stunning fashion show ever. In homage to Dior’s passion for flowers and gardens, he blanketed five rooms of a Parisian mansion with one million blooms — blue delphiniums, white orchids, pink peonies, and yellow and orange roses.
People around the world delighted in the beauty. Among them: Lisa Waud, owner of Pot & Box in Detroit.
Waud had seen similar installations before. She had a longstanding fascination with Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude, a married couple who created environmental works of art in famous locales, such as the Reichstag in Berlin, the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, and New York City’s Central Park. “These were all long-term projects that were really expensive and on exhibit for a short amount of time. I’ve always loved that idea but I never knew how to emulate it,” she said.
Then she saw photos of the Dior show “and something clicked.”
“Seeing beautiful models in gorgeous gowns overshadowed by flowers really said something,” she said. “I couldn’t stop imagining what it must have smelled like and how awe-inspiring it must have been to be surrounded by walls of flowers, especially for people who don’t work with them on a day to day basis.”
She knew she had to replicate the project — but with her own twist.
First, she wanted it in her own backyard. As a small business owner and flower farmer, Waud has a strong sense of community. And Detroit, one of the cities hardest hit by the last recession, deserved a little floral pick-me-up.
In lieu of a grand estate, she searched for an abandoned house. In November 2014, she found one on auction for $250 and bought it. Then she started telling people her “crazy idea” of cleaning it up, filling it with flowers for a weekend event, then tearing it down and planting a community flower garden.
Turns out her industry colleagues didn’t think she was so crazy. She soon had assembled a team of 26 like-minded florists eager to tackle “the project of a lifetime.” They dubbed it “The Flower House.” Mayesh Wholesale, Nordlie and American Grown volunteered to supply flowers. To kick off the event, American Grown decided to host one of its “Field to Vase” dinners in Detroit.
Author Debra Prinzing had interviewed Waud and introduced her to Kasey Cronquist, CEO of the California Cut Flower Commission and administrator of American Grown.
“This project embodies so much about we hope to see in our industry and our country,” Cronquist said, adding that the dinner sold out in record time.
Hello Future Films, a local film-making company that specializes in short documentaries about ordinary people’s extraordinary achievements, reached out to Waud, asking to cover The Flower House for a project called “A Labor of Love.” Waud was floored, as she was overwhelmed when she researched the cost of video production. But that elation was nothing compared to when she saw the finished project.
“I’ve watched it more than 100 times and I cry with each viewing,” Waud said of the very professional video that intermingles footage of the team clearing the house, families celebrating happy memories in it, and flowers opening from tight buds to big open blossoms. Throughout the film, there’s a voiceover describing in very poetic words how the house was once a home and deserves a final hurrah.
“I gave them no direction,” Waud said of the poignant copy. “They wrote that based on about a month’s worth of interviews with participating florists.” (Click here to watch it, but be prepared to tear up.)
Detroit leaders have also been incredibly helpful. “I owe a big thanks to everyone in city hall,” Waud said. “They’re very supportive of the arts and they get why it’s great to bring down down of their blighted houses with an art project in the process and a flower farm on the other end.”
After nearly three years of dreaming and one year of planning, Waud’s Flower House will soon be a reality. From Friday, Oct. 16 to Sunday, Oct. 18, people can visit the home in small groups.
“It’s massive and absurd and terrifying and thrilling,” Waud said. “And I couldn’t be happier to be in the middle of this floral chaos.”