Oh Mon Dieu! It’s Bastille Day this weekend (July 14th), giving Hong Kongers the perfect excuse to get into the French spirit and celebrate with plenty of cheese, bread and a bottle (or three) of Bordeaux. To pay homage to the 16,000+ French nationals currently living in the Fragrant Harbour, we are proud to present the first in our series of French Fancies.
Over the next five weeks, we will be bringing you a taste of the Continent, as we explore how our city is seen through of eyes of some of its most colourful and creative French businesses. First up is Oulala Flower, a florist and venue décor firm using classic French style to give Hong Kong homes and events that ‘je ne sais quoi!’
Oulala Flower first set shop in Macau in 2010, bringing the art of chic and elegant French floral arrangement to those who take delight in pretty, delicate and fragrant flowerets and blossoms. Since relocating to Hong Kong in 2011, Oulala Flower has been sprinkling a little French fairy dust on the city’s floral scene. The team offers magnificent catering for exclusive events and conducts workshops to help aspiring florists learn the secrets of their success.
Oulala Flower was founded by Carole Delavelle and Aurélie Gandilhon. Parisian Carole, Oulala’s designer, has always had a fervent love for flora, and even now fills every room of her home with bright and lively blooms. “One day without flowers is ‘orrible!” says Carole with compelling conviction that only the French can truly muster.
After graduating from the prestigious Floral Design School of Paris, Carole has reigned at the top of the game for the past 20 years, designing arrangements for the world’s biggest brands and events, including the Cannes Film Festival, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and many others.
It was at a grand wedding in France, 2008, when Carole was fated to meet Aurélie Gandilhon, now Oulala’s marketing director. Originally from Marseille, Aurélie was exploring her love for theatre production and show business, decorating and designing sets across Europe for renowned theatres, operas and musicals. Most recently she contributed to the runaway success of The House of Dancing Water in Macau’s City of Dreams, where she worked on the magnificent prop designs.
Carole and Aurélie’s meeting forged a beautiful partnership, combining their individual talents in floral and venue design. They make quite the perfect pair as they sit and chat, enjoying each other’s company while sipping on their coffees. They look as though they’ve known each other since childhood.
The name “Oulala” derives from the difficulty Asian staff members had pronouncing Carole’s name and the frequency with which she makes the very French exclamation. “She’s been saying ‘oulala’ for more than 10 years,” says Aurélie. “Now our staff say ‘Where is Oulala? Good morning Oulala!’” laughs Carole.
Speaking about why so many French people come to Hong Kong, Aurélie and Carole muse that the main attraction is the city’s open and flexible business market. “You imagine an idea and you are free to do it!” says Aurélie, when asked about why they chose to set up the business in Asia.
“We did not start it as a business to make money. It was more like bringing something new and doing something special,” Aurélie continues. “It’s really to bring the French touch of the flower design to Asia. We are not pretentious! We’re not like ‘Hey! We are the French designers of the world!’ We just really want to share this passion.”
Carole and Aurélie import most of their flowers from Holland, France, Israel, Ecuador, Italy and Asia, but Carole says French floral design is based on elegance and simplicity. “We don’t mix all the colours together. In France we love monochrome bouquets with only two or three colours maximum.”
As for where they get their boundless inspiration from, the duo return to France on a yearly basis to discover new trends to incorporate into their designs. They also get ideas from architecture, gardens, fabric, wood, shells – everything.
Around Hong Kong they frequent Sham Shui Po’s fabric market, Prince Edward’s flower market and various Kowloon side markets. “There’s a huge diversity of material in Hong Kong, such as pearls, ribbons, fabric; it’s a second home for us,” says Aurélie with a satisfied smile. “If you want to make a good cake with a good taste you have to get the best ingredients. It’s the same as flowers,” Carole adds firmly.