A tangle of black bamboo studded with a sea of pink gloriosa flowers flows down the steps of Dazaifu Tenmangu, a centuries-old Shinto shrine Fukuoka, Japan. For a country steeped in tradition, this unusual floral installation sited right at the doorway of the shrine, seems to go against decorum. But the staff of Dazaifu Tenmangu have given free rein to the architect of this piece – and he isn’t even Japanese. For Danish floral artist Nicolai Bergmann, this is not so much a coup as it is an acknowledgement of his 20-year cultural immersion in Japan.
After two decades of carving a name for himself in Tokyo, Bergmann’s eponymous floral company now operates 13 boutiques internationally, three cafes, and his very own school of floristry in Tokyo. Today, as one of the city’s most celebrated florists, the 43-year-old counts the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hibiki, and Nobu as his clients.
He’s no stranger to the Japanese concept of gaman (endurance). When he first arrived in the country, he couldn’t speak Japanese – much less grasp the nuances of doing business in Japan. Even as a rookie toiling in various Japanese florists, Bergmann’s steely work ethic was already well rooted. “I never worked as if I was employed. I always worked with a sense of ownership. If something’s not ready in the morning, then it’s my fault and no one else’s,” says Bergmann.
In many ways, his work speaks for itself. Inspired by kimono materials and old Japanese buildings, Bergmann – who picked up floristry in Denmark – fuses the traditions of European floristry with the principles of ikebana and bonsai, birthing a new visual vocabulary that borrows from both East and West.
His breakthrough, however, came quite literally from thinking within – and not out of – the box. In 2000, Bergmann came up with the idea of presenting floral bouquets within a box, such that they appeared stemless. The resulting creation delights receivers the moment they lift the lid to discover a little black box filled with fresh blooms. Today, the flower box ranks as one of the company’s best-selling products.
While he credits his success to good luck and hard work, Bergmann is a believer of realising his ambitions by making them known. “It’s important to dream big and speak of your dreams…five years ago, I said I want to make a massive botanic park and I will do so next year with a five-hectare park near Mount Fuji.”
Below, Nicolai Bergmann on the inspiration behind his unusual floral creations:
Nicolai Bergmann’s floral artistry can be viewed exclusively at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore. Bergmann has worked with the hotel’s in-house florists to create flower arrangements for the hotel’s dining outlets and public spaces, as well as weddings and events hosted at the hotel.