T Magazine | The Studio Delivering Exotic, Color-Coded Flowers

T Magazine | The Studio Delivering Exotic, Color-Coded Flowers

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To simply call Buunch a flower delivery service would be something of an understatement. The two-month-old offshoot of the floral events studio L’Atelier Rouge does, in fact, offer a streamlined selection of color-coordinated arrangements for delivery throughout New York City. But Buunch’s imaginative, effervescent bouquets — which pair unconventional flower selections with shapely, colorful vases — offer an artistic, of-the-moment rejoinder to the usual floral-shop deliveries and the recent wave of digital-first florists.

Clients order from a menu on the Buunch website that categorizes current selections by hue: choose “yellow/orange” for a composition made up entirely of fiery gloriosa, perhaps; click “purple/black” for an inky, arachnid-like spray of black millet, lady slipper orchids and heuchera leaves; or select “rainbow” for a scattering of dyed baby’s breath and dianthus.

The idea behind Buunch emerged early last year, during the slower season for the events business. “It was quiet, and I don’t like it when it’s quiet,” says Caroline Bailly, 44, who founded L’Atelier Rouge in 2010. In the years since, her firm has created everything from tabletop bouquets to oversize installations for weddings, parties and corporate clients that range from restaurants (Marea, Sant Ambroeus) to fashion brands like Dior. “I was looking at the space and thinking, ‘Let’s create something new,’” she recalls. Offering a selection of florals of a smaller scale — bouquets for the home or to be given as gifts — felt like a natural outgrowth of L’Atelier Rouge’s larger custom projects.

Sato holds an arrangement of lady slipper orchids, black millet and heuchera leaves.Matthew Novak

An orange tree and a terrarium planted with rare orchids, ferns, fairy moss and tillandsia, in a quiet corner of the 5,000-square-foot studio that the brand shares with L’Atelier Rouge, just northeast of Manhattan’s flower district.Matthew Novak

Bailly and Takaya Sato, the company’s 40-year-old creative floral director, would have likely started sooner had they not gone on one particularly lengthy quest: a hunt for vases to share equal billing with their bouquets. (The vessels are, after all, the only component that remains after the last petal fades.) They found the solution in cylindrical and bulbous shapes by the Danish labels Broste Copenhagen and Raawii, which finally arrived this spring in matte shades ranging from mint green to tangerine.

Though the company’s punchy branding and crisp photography feel right on target for the Instagram age, the bouquets themselves are undoubtedly designed to be enjoyed in three dimensions, as Sato carefully places stems with special attention to how they unfurl from the vase. “It can’t just be flat for a picture,” he says. That’s why he examines each stem from every angle, visualizing how an arrangement might look in a variety of rooms, as he shapes his expressive creations, which draw from a range of influences, including ikebana.

Sato, who trained at Tokyo’s prestigious JFTD flower college, grew up in Japan’s Yamanashi Prefecture, where his father owned a floral shop. “At first, I wasn’t so crazy about flowers,” Sato says. Then one day when he was in high school, a client came into the shop and asked him to make a bouquet. “I knew how — a bit,” he recalls. “So I made one and she was so happy.” Ever since, Sato has used flowers as a tool to elicit emotional reactions. “I want to make something that provokes people,” he explains. After several years as a freelance floral designer in New York, Sato joined the French-born Bailly as head of floral design at L’Atelier Rouge in 2015. Bailly had worked in private-events departments for hospitality giants like Daniel Boulud and Geoffrey Zakarian, but her own approach to flower arranging was, and remains, mostly conceptual. “I have a very weird relationship with flowers,” she says, laughing. “I hardly touch them.” Instead, she views her work like that of a director, leading her team toward certain combinations of flowers and stylistic maneuvers.

While they differ in approach, she and Sato bonded over their shared passion for orchestrating ephemeral moments, whether a memorable evening or the artful presentation of a single flower. It’s fitting then, that in his creative practice, Sato never likes to repeat himself. His arrangements for Buunch are dictated first by color, he says, but also by the shape of each individual flower — its head, its stem, its angles — with special attention paid to rarity, a philosophy that means Buunch’s menu changes week to week. “If something is available for only two weeks, it’s nice because it gives it a contemporary feeling,” Sato explains. Beyond the Manhattan flower market, Buunch’s team of “floral hunters” meticulously scouts buds from sources as far-flung as Japan and New Zealand, a global network that allows Buunch to provide exceptional blooms regardless of the season.

Indeed, there’s been a recent resurgence in floral design, and a notable aesthetic shift from starchy, tightly bunched clusters toward wildly exotic, seemingly untamed compositions. Though Buunch’s offerings sit comfortably among today’s bold bouquets, the brand’s most audacious move involves the revival of a single stem in particular: dianthus, the lowly, long-maligned carnation, dyed stems of which Buunch elevates in its design-forward presentations. “We have to be daring, or even a bit arrogant, to send someone colored carnations,” Bailly says. “It’s really about giving every flower the dimension it deserves.”

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