A state florist association’s decision to honor survivors of sexual assault during a runway show at its convention drew wild applause from a standing-room-only crowd, which included industry members and members of the public.
For the Saturday evening design program at the South Dakota Florists Association Fall Convention, held in Chamberlain, South Dakota, in late September, president Ann Edleman, SDCF invited Adam Havrilla AIFD, PFCI of Artistic Blooms in Chicago to create a design program that would create some buzz. Havrilla suggested the idea of honoring rape and sexual assault survivors, a personal passion, and a topic much in the news lately with the #MeToo movement.
“I knew that I wanted to shake [the convention] up by doing a runway show,” said Edleman of her decision to bring in Havrilla and give him creative carte blanche. “I felt we needed to let the public know that retail florists are alive and well in our state and able to help them express their feelings with flowers.”
For his part, Havrilla said his idea to tie the event to a topical social issue was welcomed. “I couldn’t be more thrilled at the support I got from Ann, from others in the association, and from the sponsor, Koehler & Dramm,” he said.
The theme for the show was announced on social media in advance, and women were invited to participate as runway models. Out of a dozen runway models, about a third were survivors. Two additional runway segments preceded the final tribute.
In that final segment, the models wore floral designs reminiscent of shields, body armor, and superhero capes. One pair of designs resembled lotus flowers, a symbol of purity.
“I wanted to give the beauty back to these women and make them feel empowered,” said Havrilla, who did not call them out individually on stage, but told the audience, “This segment is in honor of rape survivors. I guarantee you, you know somebody who has been a victim… We have survivors on the stage tonight, so let’s have a round of applause for them.”
“The response was phenomenal,” said Havrilla afterward. “People came up to me, and also to Ann, and told us how much it meant to them. There were plenty of men in the audience also applauding—the dads! But the best thing was a comment overheard from a member of the public, who said, ‘I didn’t know flowers could do that!’ That’s what we want, right?”
Bruce Wright is a contributing writer for the Society of American Florists.