18 Jan 2019
True love lasts a lifetime, the saying goes, so it’s an unsettling metaphor that the flowers that embody it are usually shoved in the bin within a fortnight. What does that say about matters of the heart? Yet, receiving a bunch of roses that refuses to wilt – now that’s a metaphor the romantic among us could really get behind, and thanks to a newly opened London florist, it’s now possible.
American brand Venus Et Fleur, which is already on the speed-dial of many a Hollywood A-lister, has arrived in Mayfair – the company’s first shop outside the US.
Think round, suede boxes filled with red, cream and lavender blooms, sitting on silver shelves and reached by a golden ladder – if the sales assistant clambers up it, that is.
But the main difference between this chic, Parisian-style florist and any other? The roses claim to last for at least 12 months, so Cupid has to shoot his arrow but once a year.
I know what you’re thinking: they cannot be real. But they are, and supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid – as well as the actresses Lily Collins, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Alba, who are already fans – would back that up.
Most popular among the red-carpet set is a bespoke box in which their name is spelt out in different coloured flowers. Hadid received the “Grandiose de Venus” box of around 130 roses for her 23rd birthday last April, with “Gigi” written in red roses, against a background of white blooms.
It was her second such gift – on her 22nd birthday, she posted an Instagram picture of her red Venus Et Fleur roses, with a white “G” in the centre.
In fact, famous fans – including the singers Drake and Jennifer Lopez, plus models Karlie Kloss and Kendall Jenner (the entire Kardashian clan, in fact) – can’t get enough of them, and with the cost of an individual rose starting at £39, the prices are certainly A-list. The flower bed Hadid received last year would have set the sender back £1,499.
But, the owners say, as they last for a year, you are not wasting your money on a display of affection that will rot within a fortnight (one speculates they might have outlived some relationships).
“It is absolutely hard to believe that they’re natural,” admits Seema Bansal, the 27-year-old co-founder of Venus Et Fleur, who admits to spending the first 18 months after their 2015 launch just persuading people they were real.
“You have to see them to believe,” she says. “But they are real roses from a farm in Ecuador, which produces the best in the world, so they look, feel and smell exactly as you would imagine any other rose would.
“The secret is that the very top of the stem is dipped into a wax solution, just when they bloom, which freezes the wilting process and means they last for at least a year if kept out of direct sunlight. Ironically, water kills them.”
The idea for “eternal” roses came from what will be, to many, a familiar problem.
Bansal and her husband and cofounder, Sunny Chadha, 29, were in a long-distance relationship between Vancouver and New York – and he was struggling to send flowers across the globe that looked anything like they did online. A particularly awful bunch arrived one Valentine’s Day, despite Chadha having paid an extortionate amount.
“That made us realise that there was a lack of fresh, luxury bouquets on the market and we wanted to create something that really blew you away when you received it,” says Bansal.
Then there was the problem of how to make sure they didn’t die too soon. “Sending fresh flowers in the post is a nightmare because they only really last seven to 10 days,” Bansal explains. “We talked to the farm about how we might be able to make them last longer and they were already working with a biochemist on a treatment that would stop the growth of the rose when it reached perfect bloom.”
Not even Monty Don could manage that with a decent mulch, you have to admit.
That gives the impression they have just arrived – “Oh, these? No, they’re not the same ones you saw in September. Fresh this week!” – not to mention that the Parisian-inspired hat boxes, which come in suede, leather or velvet box (with a £100 surcharge), are pretty show-stopping themselves. The gold lettering puts one in mind of French brands like Ladurée and the Instagram feed is peppered with pictures of petit women in berets.
Unsurprisingly, Venus Et Fleur’s flowers have already been ordered all over the world. “France, the Arab Emirates, India, Canada, Europe,” Bansal says. But after the US, where they have a showroom in New York and another shop that opened on the World Trade Centre site this week, the UK is their biggest market.
“People love the longevity,” she adds. “You can pay £40 for a dozen flowers in a normal florist and it’s horrible having to throw them away so quickly. These last, and that allows the memory of being sent them to last every day for a year.”
The colours, which are as bright and beautiful as the plumes of exotic birds, have already been drawing in curious shoppers from South Molton Street – where the shop stands surrounded by designer fashion stores – to coo over them. “Incredible,” says Jane Chinchanwala, 51, who is visiting London from New Zealand.
“I’m a doctor and these would be different in the rose world. We should send green roses for yellow for friendship, blue for sympathy or serenity. There is black, gold, aqua, burgundy, “earl grey” and a rainbow shade that makes the roses look a little like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs.
Each is dyed, even the red, to achieve the “perfect” look, Bansal says. But it’s the smell that I can’t over, which is somehow more “” than an actual rose.
Only Alia Razaq, the sales assistant, doesn’t agree. “I’ve become immune – I’ll never smell a rose again,” she says mournfully. One imagines that a giant box of Grandiose stems might help to restore the romance – for another year, at least.
Venus Et Fleur is at 13 South Molton Street, London W1, 020 3934 9850; venusetfleur.com