JEFF LEATHAM

Jeff Leatham is a celebrated artistic director, taste maker and florist whose work is exhibited around the globe.

His bold and intuitive sense of color, chic and stylish arrangements, and elegant simplicity has made him one of the most in-demand talents for weddings, parties, holidays, brand collaborations, hotels, fashion shows and other global events.

 “I create lasting memories, and I put smiles on people’s faces every day,” he recently told USA Today. “That’s the best part of my job, from when we do a huge installation and people are like, ‘Oh my God,’ to the simplicity and the beauty of one of my guys ringing someone’s doorbell and there’s a beautiful flower arrangement in their hands from someone that they love. The fact that I create something that makes people smile. I’m a pretty lucky guy.”

Jeff’s career exploded in 1999 when he was recruited to design the lobby of the George V, which re-opened by Four Seasons after a five-year renovation. Jeff’s previous work at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills had so impressed the owner of the Paris hotel, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, he gave him carte blanche to design the venerated palace as he saw fit. His work soon became the hotel’s signature and provided Jeff a global stage to showcase his many talents. He is known to use 13,000 stems a week and has an annual budget of $1.7 million per year.

 He credits the “Leatham Rules of 3”: keep everything clean, simple, and chic, which means bunching all of one type of flower together; never mixing more than three types of flowers or colors together and keeping everything monochromatic.

“My whole styling and favorite period is that whole Mid-century Modern [era] – the 60s and 70s are so inspiring to me because those designs are so timeless and bold,” he says. “I think that’s what I want people to think of my work as timeless, bold statements of color and texture. And when I work there’s definitely a certain style –my flowers leaning out the side of the vase, for example. There’s a styling that goes with a Jeff Leatham look. I’m lucky as a designer to have a design that is characteristic to me and my personality, especially in floral design. In fashion you can look at Valentino and say ‘That’s a Valentino red dress’ or ‘That’s a white women’s tuxedo from Yves Saint Laurent.’ The fact that you can look at a style of flowers and say, ‘That’s Jeff Leatham’ — I’m lucky.

“The style that I created was innovative and changed the way people think about flowers,” Jeff told Teen Vogue. “I know that sounds strange, but before I started with flowers, flowers were just pretty garden bouquets and different things. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t clean and simple. Then [we started] creating things that are very simple and all one flower in a vase. This whole idea of all one flower in the vase and keeping things really simple and clean and chic. Doing flowers in different ways, wrapped around a vase and bent around like this … For me the most important thing is just creating things and evolving, so you’re never just staying stagnant. You always have to have your signature thing,” he continued.  “I think it’s just being your own person and your own artist, no matter what you do.”

JEFF LEATHAM

Attracting celebrity clientele

Leatham’s work at the George V helped him attract a celebrity clientele — including Madonna, the Dalai Lama as well as Chelsea Clinton, whose wedding he designed — in addition to collaborations with brands like Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Dom Pérignon and Chanel. In 2014 he was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honor for artists who have made a significant contribution to French culture given by the Minister of Culture. He has also created the floral design at Versailles, among other famous landmarks.

JEFF LEATHAM

Three best-selling books author

Jeff is also the author of three best-selling books, including Flowers by Jeff Leatham, Flowers by Design, and Jeff Leatham – Visionary Floral Art and Design, and he is creator of the documentary series Flowers Uncut. Jeff also has a line of giftware and barware, “The Jeff Leatham Collection,” with Waterford Crystal, and he will be releasing his first signature fragrance later this year.

 In 2016, Jeff had a homecoming of sorts when he added back to his portfolio the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, which he art directs in addition to the George V. He also has incorporated the Four Seasons Philadelphia at Comcast Center to his growing clientele.  Jeff operates four offices around the work, including Paris, LA, Philadelphia and China.

Jeff Leatham

Q&A with Jeff Leatham

I create lasting memories, and I put smiles on people’s faces every day. That’s the best part of my job, from when we do a huge installation and people are like, ‘Oh my God,’ to the simplicity and the beauty of one of my guys ringing someone’s doorbell and there’s a beautiful flower arrangement in their hands from someone that they love.

My whole styling and favorite period is that whole Mid-century Modern [era] – the 60s and 70s are so inspiring to me because those designs are so timeless and bold. I think that’s what I want people to think of my work as timeless, bold statements of color and texture. And when I work there’s definitely a certain style –my flowers leaning out the side of the vase, for example. There’s a styling that goes with a Jeff Leatham look. I’m lucky as a designer to have a design that is characteristic to me and my personality, especially in floral design. In fashion you can look at Valentino and say, ‘That’s a Valentino red dress’ or ‘That’s a white women’s tuxedo from Yves Saint Laurent.’ The fact that you can look at a style of flowers and say, ‘That’s Jeff Leatham,’ makes me a lucky guy.

Talent and inspiration, but the real secret are the flowers themselves—they’re the real star. It comes down to the quality of the flowers, so make sure you buy high-quality flowers and make sure they last a long time. You want the colors to remain beautiful and make sure their heads aren’t drooping. You know, in Paris, I get all my flowers directly from Amsterdam.

Keep everything clean, simple, and chic, which means bunching all of one type of flower together; never mixing more than three types of flowers or colors together and keeping everything monochromatic. For me the most important thing is just creating things and evolving, so you’re never just staying stagnant. You always have to have your signature thing. I think it’s just being your own person and your own artist, no matter what you do.

For me, seeing the space is the most important. I can never just work off of a photo — I’m a very visual person, so I actually need to go to the space and see what’s going on. The color is the next important piece to me: deciding what color to use, a color that goes with the space. Then, we decide on the shape we want and then we decide on the flowers. It’s kind of the reverse process that people think: usually, people would think, ‘Oh, you choose the flowers first,’ but the flowers are actually the last thing I choose.

Jeff Leatham

Q&A with Jeff Leatham

I was working retail for the Gap and modeling part time. I came home from Europe and got a job at the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills. Before then I had never touched a flower, never even wanted to work with flowers, and that’s where my career started. Four Seasons really gave me that whole spectrum: I started making big, grand flower installations, so that really helped me be the artist I am today.

A lot of people, when they achieve success at a young age, tend to take every offer that they get to grow their brand and do different things. The loyalty that I’ve had to Four Seasons and to my clients has probably been the biggest secret to my success. I recently celebrated my 20-year anniversary at the George V. People still say, ‘I want to hire that guy that does the flowers in the lobby of that hotel in Paris.’ They still say that, all these years later. Even if they don’t know my name, they know where my flowers come from. My biggest clients, my greatest friends—how did you meet them? In the lobby of the George V. I did Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. Where did I meet the Clintons? In the lobby of the George V. Four Seasons has basically given me my entire career — they’ve always been there and been super supportive. 

My team is everything to me. That’s why I also tag #TeamLeatham on my social media. I am nothing without my team. They make it possible for me to do all of this travel, they make all these beautiful things possible, and I have the most brilliant, talented team in the world.

My favorite flower of all time is the magnolia. Listen, I’m not trying to be like the Dalai Lama here, but the magnolia reflects experiences in life. It’s absolutely beautiful when you pick the flower, but because the life span of a magnolia is so short, the flower loses its beauty day-by-day. So, you have to enjoy it and love it while you can. Magnolias are probably the rarest flower and also my favorite.