Why Saskia Havekas Is Australia’s Top Florist
When woman with drive interviewed Saskia Havekas three weeks ago, she was already receiving a steady stream of Valentine’s Day orders. By the time this article is published, the order numbers would be in the hundreds. And that does not include walk-ins on the day itself.
“I am surprised at how organised people are this year!” Saskia laughed. “We usually work late the night before and previously had people rushing in at 2am. We may have a cut-off time for orders this year but still have to be prepared for walk-ins and the forgetful ones who come in the day after.”
For those who know Saskia and her store, Grandiflora, from two decades ago, this incredible demand hardly raises any eyebrows. After all, this is the florist who once made a bouquet for Princess Diana, assisted at actress Eva Longoria’s wedding and creates floral masterpieces for international runways.
And to think that when she set up her first and only shop in Sydney’s Potts Point, people thought her crazy for choosing a location at the end of a quiet street. Back then, Potts Point was not the glitzy area it is today yet that did not blur Saskia’s vision of its and her own future.
“I just had a feeling,” she said. “I knew that street had potential. It reminded me of Paris. And the window was so beautiful I knew I could build my reputation with amazing window displays. It was an ambitious project but I had a lot of faith.”
That faith has paid off. Today, Saskia is not just Australia’s biggest name in floristry but also a perfumer and the author of three books. And she is still blossoming.
woman with drive spoke to Saskia about floral trends, beginning a third decade of business and the role of business in creativity.
What are this year’s floral trends especially around Valentine’s Day?
Jewel-tones, like burgundy and deep pink, mixed with berries and unusual lush leaves. Also flowers with a strong fragrance. People are more adventurous now and no longer just going with red roses. In the last two years, white and green were favourites. I still get a lot of orders for this classic combination.
What has been a significant change in trends over the last few years?
An increase in male customers. We used to see men in our store maybe once or twice a month but now we see them almost daily. With Instagram, a lot of women are showing their partners or sons images of beautiful flower arrangements and the men like to follow-up on that because of the big emotional reaction it gets. Flowers portray such an emotional message.
If you were shown Grandiflora’s future two decades ago, how would you have responded?
I cannot say that I am completely floored at what Grandiflora has grown into because this was what I intended for it from the very beginning. I knew there was a gap in the market and I also knew I had enough passion and energy to go the distance. So I just feel very blessed that it has come to fruition.
Do you remember the exact moment when you realised you were at the brink of an international journey?
Yes! We had just put together a beautiful show for Dries van Noten in Singapore that involved transforming the entire space in a very old building. Once you get approval from someone like that, it changes your life. It was a really lovely experience. That was the moment I thought, it is really happening. I felt like I had to pinch myself.
How does it feel taking Grandiflora into its third decade?
I feel confident but also a little daunted because so many things have changed. The shop and the flowers are always morphing, and are so different even from a year ago. I definitely feel more experienced now but there is always a lot to learn every single day.
You once said it has been a tough pull between family and work. How have you tackled that?
The ultimate challenge then and now is dividing my attention between my work and my children, and trying to make sure that things do not fall through the gap. You spread yourself very thin, hope people understand and give what you can. I do feel like I shortchange my girls sometimes but I am quite confident that they see my passion for what I do and know how hard I work. And I hope they too find something they are truly passionate about because that is what gives you a wonderful happiness in life.
What has been the biggest business learning over the past 20 years?
Understanding how to combine business and creativity. That was a very big challenge for me. I used to only focus on the creative work but now I take a step back and realise that I cannot spend that amount of money on a project because it is not viable. But it has taken me a long time to understand how to make these two areas work together. You must take the time to listen, learn and get involved as much as possible.
You wake up at 3.45am every day to head to the flower markets. What drives that commitment?
I never go to bed without my three alarm clocks no matter where I am! And I have never ever missed a market. It is about developing a mindset. But it is the flowers themselves that really get me out of bed every morning. I love seeing them bloom and watching them transform, and getting lost in that. Someone came with me to the market once and remarked that I had already done half a day’s work. But I felt like I had been in a dream.
What city inspires you?
Paris. There is so much beauty everywhere you turn. And the French revere their flowers. They take flowers to another level in the way they display them in windows and restaurants. Another city is Amsterdam. I love how open they are, and their deep passion for flowers. Everyone seems to be carrying flowers and I am so inspired by that.
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