So many guests at the hotel ask who is responsible for the stunning floral displays that adorn the public areas. It is one of the first things you will notice when arriving at Flemings, and it is all down to the creative genius of hotel florist Yan Skates. We are incredibly proud to have formed a partnership with Yan. Everyday his work astounds and amazes us, whilst delighting and inspiring our guests. With so many fans enquiring about Yan and his floral artistry, we decided to delve deeper into his world and present a selection of his favourite work at the hotel.
Some of the highlights of Yan’s career have included commissions for the Norwegian State visit in 2005 where he decorated the Norwegian Royal Yacht and the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence. In 2008, he provided flowers at the Middle Temple on their 400th anniversary; with Queen Margrete II of Denmark and her sister Anne Marie in attendance – followed by a private audience. In addition to a launch event for Andre Botticelli’s album, an award dinner for 1000 guests at Excel London and countless exclusive dinners throughout the country; Yan says the biggest privilege of his work is gaining access to all the historic buildings in London, castles and manor houses in the English countryside for wedding celebrations and product launches.
In 2010, Yan collaborated with Flemings and went on to win a gold medal at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. His floral arrangement, inspired by the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Booby Birds and Flemings Pink Afternoon Tea, graced the central feature in the Floral Design Marquee. Yan’s artistic genius realised a 3.5 metre tiered silver cake stand adorned with a feast of pink flowers arranged in domes to represent Flemings’ legendary cupcakes. It showcased new varieties of hydrangea and Yan’s favourite rose “Keano” with cottage garden favourites mixed with exotic accents like Gloriosa lilies and Vanda orchids. Designer Grant White, the man responsible for the extraordinary transformation of the hotel’s public spaces, has provided the perfect canvas to showcase Yan’s creativity. As you will see from Yan’s photographs, they compliment each other beautifully. We caught up with Yan in the bar at Flemings.
How did the partnership between you and Flemings come about?
Through a series of fortunate events! I was doing a promotional event, which was more of an art and fashion happening in Clarges Street’s private members club The Fox Club. I had asked 12 artists to re-interpret my portfolio in their own media (sculpture, graphic design, paint, photography, graffiti) and their exhibits were then shown next to flowers arrangements similar to the image from my portfolio that had inspired them. This was during Fashion week in August 2004 and my friend Mei Hui and her label Victim Fashion put on a show that brought the full Fashion week circus to Mayfair. I had a private view of the show. The private members had a very lively evening and lastly the artists had their private view. So over 3 days about 2000 people experienced the show in one way or another. One of these people was Simon Scarborough from Flemings’, who is very friendly with the Fox Club directors and it was just at the beginning of the big renovation project was starting at Flemings’ and they felt a new florist was needed. A case of – in the right place at the right time.
How and where do you draw inspiration for your work?
My background is a fine art degree from Aahus Art Academy in Denmark. I get a lot of inspiration from 2 dimensional media by going to exhibitions and reading books and magazines, especially about new movements in art and architecture and accounts of how flower arranging used to be done. I also like to travel and when I am in exotic places I like to investigate how plants grow naturally. I also take part in competitions, as many as 6 a year, which pitches me against my peers and is very challenging. On top of that I take part in at least 4 master classes by other flower arrangers every year. All these impressions crystallize into designs that even I can wonder how they came about.
What unusual materials do you use with your designs?
You name it! Vintage taxidermy glass domes, orchid roots, tennis balls and rackets for Wimbledon weeks, tree trunks, Perspex, lots of wire, crystal beads and I always look out for new varieties of flowers.
After winning a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower show this year, how has it affected your career?
It makes meetings with new clients go a lot smoother!
What is your favourite season for floral displays and why?
There isn’t a favourite season, as I keep getting bowled over by the wonder of nature every time the seasons change. Luckily I have two fairly large gardens where I can watch it all unfold.
There is really only one good advice: Keep the water clean! It’s bad water that kills cut flowers because of the bacteria that develops, so if you can keep your vase and your water clean, your flowers will last and last. Also buy seasonal flowers as they will be the most cost effective and hopefully locally grown. And every now and again splash out on an experiment, by buying 1 or a few of a more expensive variety. Sometimes it can pay you back by lasting up to 3 weeks.