How a designer from Calvin Klein started his own floral design business – WWD

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In the Japanese worldview called wabi-sabi, the arts are marked by asymmetry and imperfection. Wabi-sabi is rooted in the Buddhist teachings of suffering and impermanence, which are then applied to poetry, pottery, design or flower arrangement. One of those arts is called ikebana – it’s a style of floral design that Brooklyn florist Fernando Kabigting, who previously worked as an accessory designer at Calvin Klein, founded his company, FDK Florals.

Kabigting explored the idea of ​​wabi-sabi and the practice of ikebana on a trip to Japan this fall. With her partner, Go Kasai, they traveled to the suburbs of Tokyo, Kyoto and Yokohama, spending time with ikebana masters and learning how Japanese flower arrangements reflected the natural environments around them. Everything about the flowers of Japan comes from nature, explains Kabigting.

“But it’s their idea of ​​nature,” he says, “whether it’s a crooked branch or a dying leaf, which hangs on for life – next to a vine. very alive ”. Kabigting tells the story of his journey from inside his apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where he lives with Kasai and their puppy. The building sits on a historic row of gray stone, and most of the interior of his house is more or less preserved from its original construction – there is a patio door frame separating the living room from the kitchen and a small corner with a stained glass window. On her dining table: a series of galvanized cans and glass vases containing red rosebuds, honeysuckle berries, and flowers from a Ginkgo tree located just outside her house. He grabs a branch of this, a handful of that, and sits down at his coffee table to make an arrangement. The stone base – which he says he picked up from Calvin Klein – contains inside a small tool called a kenzan, used to hold branches and stems in place. Cutting off the ends, he places the Ginkgo flower next to some mushrooms he picked from a friend in the upstate and points to them. See? Conventional beauty – the flower – next to something a little more gnarled – an old mushroom. Asymmetry. Imperfection.

Kabigting made his debut in the fashion world while living in Los Angeles in early August. He worked at BCBG for three years before moving to New York in 2010. Once there he rebounded, engaged in marketing, working for a nonprofit, then Li & Fung and finally Calvin. Klein, where he designed handbags for the wide-price range. He then worked for other brands, but was called back to work at Calvin Klein with the contemporary market. By this point, Raf Simons had joined the fashion house.

“Raf’s new leadership was exciting and I wanted to be a part of it,” says Kabigting, adding that the company gives its creative team and designers freedom in their day-to-day operations.

“One day my whole team could take a trip to [art museum] Dia: Beacon, and be inspired that way, ”he says. “You could take photos of the samples you receive, interact with your factories overseas. Or you could literally cut leather.

Kabigting was interested in flowers and set design even before coming to New York – while living in a loft in downtown LA in 2009, he and Kasai threw parties where they tied tree branches. trees with exposed pipe. , and tie the fishing line to the trees so that they appear to be levitating above the guests. At Calvin Klein, he practiced his love for arrangement by giving flowers to his colleagues on their birthdays and leaving stems on people’s desks. He decided to try continuing the flower thing in January, and by May he had decided to quit his job at Calvin Klein and make FDK Florals his full-time job.

Since then, Kabigting has created floral arrangements for Gucci’s party celebrating his alliance with Dapper Dan and also for a pop-up in Totokaelo’s SoHo store. He’s also teamed up with Google on some of the company’s events and works regularly with influencer Nam Vo, who is best known for wearing makeup on Kylie Jenner. His regular gig, however, is a workshop he runs at Urban Outfitters’ Space Ninety8 in Williamsburg – where he teaches interested parties how to make arrangements and about ikebana philosophies.

Kabigting says he has a short attention span, which could explain his tendency to jump from one line of work to another. But he says this mindset allows him to get creative with his arrangements, tell stories with colors and textures, and create something that can be enjoyed from multiple angles.

“I don’t watch the ads, I can’t read a book from the first page to the back – I go to the back,” he says. “With films, I’m the same way. I start at the end. Whether it’s this idea of ​​control, or whatever, I like to get into it right away. I love this idea of ​​a beautiful and well-styled thing that is a complete celebration, that gets you excited.

“For me, fashion had it all. The way I have designed products and handbags, I have also taken the same approach in the floral realm. You appreciate the long neck of a rod the same way a nice strap does, and the way it falls over your shoulder.

Kabigting says he’s still in demand for fashion jobs every now and then – sometimes he consults for a brand or even designs a handbag. He hasn’t left the fashion industry entirely, but is certainly focusing his efforts on FDK, which has gained momentum over the past seven months. He says he set a soft goal for the year when he started his business, and he hit that goal in the first six months. With the support and interest of customers, he is able to take more trips – his goal for 2019 is to travel the world and learn other forms of flower design and discover new varieties of wild animals at include in its arrangements. Maybe he will acquire more knowledge similar to wabi-sabi and ikebana.

“I want to be able to learn and see some of that,” he explains. “I want to know more about the product. There is so much new. It’s so early – I don’t know, the honeymoon phase? It’s that excitement, but it continues. I kept that moment, in a way.

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