Q&A with Bruno Duarte, Toronto Floral Designer
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and how you became an artist and a florist.
I grew up on Madeira Island, Portugal, and moved to Canada in 1989 with my family. I fell into the flower industry by accident, helping a flower shop with cleaning stock and any daily tasks that were needed. I watched what the designers were creating and loved the artistry. I worked at a flower shop right out of high school and then decided that I loved the industry and wanted to learn more, so I went to Humber College’s retail floristry program. At college, I did my co-op placement with Luc Leclerc Florist, and that is when I discovered that floral design can be art. I met my best friend and business partner while at Luc Leclerc, who believed in me and saw the talent before I even knew I had it. He has been my biggest supporter and mentor in business and in life.
2. When did you know you wanted to choose this path as your career?
I’ve always loved flowers from when I was young, but never really thought that working with them would be my future. It wasn’t until after high school that I realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
3. What do you love most about nature and flowers?
I love the fact that they are constantly changing and evolving.
4. Where did you grow up, and how did you come to make Toronto your home?
As mentioned, I grew up on Madeira Island, Portugal, and we were able to move to Toronto, Canada, in 1989, because my grandmother was able to sponsor us to move. It’s been home ever since.
5. Tell us about how you came to work with celebrities.
We came to work with celebrities through different celebrity publicists who require flowers that are a little different and creative.
6. Where do you like to travel? Do you go to any industry shows? Have you won any awards?
When I’m not working, I like to travel to a beach destination, where I can disconnect and just relax. Yes, I’ve done the Canada Blooms garden show every year since I have had my own shop. Also, I travel and do many demonstrations and workshop in America, Canada, England, Scotland and the Bahamas. I have won the Floral Artist of the Year for 2018 and have won many awards at Canada Blooms’s Floral Alley competition. I won the Pacific Northwest Floral Design Competition in 2018, got second place at the Maple Leaf Cup in 2019 and I won the Cafa Award for the most artistic use of plant material at the Maple Leaf Cup in 2019.
7. How has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Everyone’s business has been affected by this pandemic, and we just need to be adaptable and get creative about how we can still do orders. We are able to do phone orders and no contact deliveries. We had to let go of all our staff for the time being, because we lost all our weekly corporate orders, and all events were cancelled. We are trying to do whatever we can to get through this difficult time together.
8. What do you hope people learn from this unprecedented time?
I hope that this will make people pause and see what is important in our everyday lives and make some changes once we are out of quarantine.
9. What positive situation have you observed during this period?
We have the most amazing loyal customers. They are ordering flowers to send to friends and co-workers to brighten their days with beautiful flowers. It really has been heartwarming, and we feel very blessed to have such amazing supportive clients. It’s this kind of thing that will help small businesses stay open after this is all over.
10. For what is your work most recognized?
Leaf manipulation and sculptural.
11. Do you have a mentor?
My best friend and ex-business partner now, Grahame Hubbard. He’s taught me so many things about business and life. I feel very lucky and blessed to have such an amazing mentor.
12. What is the best gift you have ever received and given to someone?
My 40th birthday party, and my shop by my amazing staff. A weekend in New York.
13. What is your favourite season?
I love the spring. It’s a season of rebirth, full of life and hope.
14. What is the first thing you plan to do once we are free to go on with our lives?
Go to my favourite restaurant, have dinner at the bar and be with people.
15. What is a book you have read that has left you with a great impression?
Floral design books.
16. What do you like to do during your time off?
I like to be with family and friends, relaxing and laughing.
17. Tell us about your family, and how they inspire you to follow your dreams.
I come from a family of five boys and one girl, and my parents have always been supportive and encouraged us to shoot for the stars. They thought me from a very young age that with lots of hard work and determination, anything is possible.
18. What is your definition of la dolce vita (“the sweet life”)?
La dolce vita is finding your soulmate and experiencing all the great things that life has to offer together.