Boenga founder and floral designer Harijanto Setiawan unveils Haribana, a tome named after his patented floristry style that presents an architectural take on Japanese ikebana. Ahead of his book launch at the Takashimaya X Haribana Floral Extravagance show this month, he talks to us about about the inspiration behind his creations, his passion for floristry and the event highlights.
Minutes before Harijanto Setiawan’s photoshoot, we watch him assemble a stunning floral arrangement made up of towering branches, tropical flowers and beautiful greens. He is a master at work, who constructs quietly and rapidly.
Known for his flamboyant arrangements that decorate luxury events and society weddings, Harijanto made headlines when he launched his signature Haribana style in 2020. The catchy portmanteau is his modern spin on ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arrangement, but with more architectural and complex elements.
The founder of Boenga, a Singapore-based floral studio, has an impressive laundry list of local and global accolades. These include gold medals at the Sanya Flower Show in China and Floria Putrajaya Malaysia, a silver medal at International Floral Art Belgium and the International Designer of the Year award by Fusion Flowers UK.
To date, Harijanto remains the only floral designer to be awarded the prestigious President’s Designer of the Year in 2013.
In a Prestige interview in 2021, the Indonesian-born former architect said that he had fought for the title. He had been a finalist for three years prior but was told that his work was regarded as art and not design. He finally successfully argued that more recognition was needed for floral design and local art. This same tenacity is what motivated him to create Haribana in the throes of the pandemic, and what inspired his new book devoted to this style.
Harijanto’s upcoming collaboration with Takashimaya Singapore, which runs from Mar 8 to 12, is a celebration of the department store’s 30th anniversary this year. The Floral Extravagance event features his unique aesthetic, the book launch and a slew of exciting highlights. He tells us more in the following interview.
Harijanto Setiawan on flowers and what inspires him
Tell us about your earliest memory of working with flowers.
When I was young, I watched my mother do her gardening every morning. She grew many types of flowers. In Year 5 of primary school, I had floral arrangement lessons as part of an art and crafts class. These experiences nurtured my love for flowers.
You weren’t always a floral designer. What prompted the switch in careers?
After many hectic years in architecture, I realised that my true passion lies in the creative expression that floristry offers. I was looking for a new and more artistic outlet, and the world of flowers has provided me with just that.
What drew me to make the switch from architecture to floristry was the ability to use flowers as a medium of self-expression and to spread joy. I not only enjoy the process but also the satisfaction of the results. This is what drives my passion for floristry. Flowers are living elements of nature, each with its own unique character. Every arrangement I create is distinct and special. It is both a challenging and rewarding experience that fascinates and fulfils me.
What are the architectural elements you incorporate in your design?
My studies and practice in architecture gave me a good foundation in the process of creating. It starts with planning, designing and materialising, followed by operating, decorating and constructing. All the principle elements in architecture, such as colours, composition, balance, structure, rhythm, movement, contract, balance, proportion, pattern and aesthetic value, play a part in my work.
Describe the Haribana style, and how it differs or is similar to ikebana.
Haribana means Hari’s interpretation of ikebana. Ikebana has many styles, but Haribana is a Zen approach that incorporates architectural principles for floral arrangement. The key difference is using minimal materials to create an impactful display. It was conceived during the height of the pandemic when the floral supply was limited. I challenged myself to produce interesting floral pieces with less.
What is the vision behind your book, also named Haribana?
It is my desire to keep creating and continue the spirit of sharing in floristry; to inspire and to encourage new styles in the floristry scene. The book is printed in Belgium, with a first print run of 500 copies.
Tell us about the 65 Haribana creations featured in the book.
I reinterpreted my signature wittiness in some of the architectural floral pieces. While they are simple, they are also visually arresting. To perfect my technique and challenge my existing knowledge, I used special materials like Australian steel grass and my favourite flowers of clematis in this series. Geometrical lines found in architecture are also integrated.
What are the highlights of the Takashimaya x Harijanto Floral Extravagance event?
Apart from the book launch on the afternoon of the first day, Mar 8, there is also an exhibition by 35 floral designers from countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, France, Indonesia, the UK, Korea and Japan. Another highlight is the Open Category Floral Designing Competition that will be attended by more than 50 participants from all over the world. The public can look forward to daily floral arrangement demonstrations, interactive workshops, and a bustling floral-related marketplace. The whole event takes place at Takashimaya’s B2 Atrium.
We’d love to hear more about the vases you’ve created for this show.
To elevate Takashimaya’s celebrations, I designed a limited-edition series of hand-blown vases, as part of the exclusive Takashimaya X Harijanto Limited Edition Finest Collection. They are produced by a team of master artisans from RCG Okinawa Japan. All the creations are unique in their colours and style, and will be displayed and sold during the book launch on the first day.
What is your most memorable creation over the years?
The Floral Kaleidoscope that was awarded the Best Show during Singapore Garden Festival 2014.
What would you like to see more of in the local floristry scene?
I’d like to see more creative ideas with new techniques to elevate the maturity of the design scene in Singapore. There are endless possibilities in using flowers to push the boundaries of the craft to spark new trends.
You’ve shaped the careers of young floral artists. Please share some advice for the aspiring ones.
Be original in creating your own style. Stay humble when it comes to learning and upgrade your skills when you can.