livier Giugni doesn’t easily back away from a good design challenge. “I work very well with deadlines, and I can handle pressure,” says Giugni, the founder of New York-based L’Olivier Floral Atelier. “I’m also energetic and creative, and I like to stay positive.”
It’s those characteristics that have helped the floral designer become a top name in a competitive field. Growing up in Brignoles, France, between Saint-Tropez and Aix-en-Provence, Giugni once thought of becoming an architect or a fashion designer. But a career in floral design seemed nearly inevitable. “I was always outside, and all of my family members had a garden,” he recalls. “My grandmother had a huge terrace in France, and I loved to help water the plants and see the roots coming in. I love flowers and nature, and it wasn’t even a question for what I wanted to do. It was just in me.” So ingrained was his passion that Giugni taught himself the discipline, launching a stellar career of self-made success.
For six years, Giugni served as design director of fashion icon Pierre Cardin‘s Les Fleurs de Maxim’s in Paris. He moved to New York in 1986 to open an outpost of the brand, then set out on his own nine years later. Today, Giugni operates three New York City locations of his floral studio. His avant-garde sculptural arrangements and signature leaf-wrapped vases–an original design he pioneered–have delighted a long list of discreet celebrity clients, including Michelle Obama, and graced restaurants such as Daniel and the lobbies of legendary hotels that include Loews Regency New York, The Plaza Hotel and The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel. “My style is very modern and clean,” Giugni says. “My designs are very sensual and sexy; they remind me of the south of France.”
When Giugni isn’t designing arrangements and centerpieces for weddings and events, he enjoys cooking the classic Provencal dish ratatouille from scratch, visiting local museums (even Vincent van Gogh, he muses, captured the beauty of the flower when he was in Saint-Remy de Provence) and frequenting farmers markets: “I buy vegetables because I like the way they look,” he says. In 2010, the self-taught designer penned Living Art: Style Your Home with Flowers, a stunning tome showcasing his varied portfolio and styling advice.
Like most creatives, the Harlem resident jets around the world for inspiration, which he finds in places like Morocco, Cuba, California “and the beautiful city of Paris,” he says. “I like anywhere that has beautiful architecture.” His latest venture is an eco-friendly line of floral-inspired candles free of additives and preservatives. Crafted in France by master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, the three-scent collection consists of Cuir Vegetal, derived from poplar buds from France; Vert de Vert, which uses the aroma of foliage rather than flora; and Mai Flower, based on the traditional French custom of gifting lily of the valley for good luck.
While he admits his favorite flower is the black tall bearded iris, Giugni insists he loves all kinds, from carnations to peonies. It’s simply part of a 35-year passion and talent that will never wane. “Flowers make people happy,” Giugni says. “When we speak of flowers, people almost always have a smile on their face. And that makes me excited.”