‘I always knew that nature would be the guide in my life’


Emilio Robba - Sculptor of Flowers & International Photographer

Emilio ROBBA


Born into a family of Italian artists residing in Paris, Emilio Robba knew from a very young age that his artistic roots would guide him in his life.  He chose to begin with painting and studied form and colour at the prestigious Beaux-Arts school.  His fascination of nature led him instinctively towards the art of floral design, where he rapidly pushed the frontiers…

In this quest a true passion was born, and further enhanced by his encounter with the orchid – the flower of flowers; with her he achieved his first great inspirations, some of which found their voice in the country of Beauty and Mystery.  The orchid naturally became his emblem, and he plays his daily role of its ambassador exposing it everywhere as a precious treasure… Today, a phalaenopsis orchid carries his name.

Other encounters determine his career path: in 1980 Pierre Cardin asks him to create a retail store selling the finest flowers, including many unusual species, under the prestigious “Maxim’s de Paris” label. Of his contact with the celebrated designer, Emilio Robba develops a taste for multi-creation and begins his transformation into a complete designer. And so he designed his own proper collection of ‘flowers of illusion’ and imagined the first contemporary draped vases which brought him instant notoriety – with more than one and a half million sold to this date. During that time the press baptized him: “Sculptor of flowers”.

Ten years later, Emilio Robba is noticed by ITOKIN, a ready-to-wear giant in Japan, who brings him into the international arena… and also permit him to realize his dream: vases, rugs, furnishings, the table arts, linens and even feminine clothing and accessories carrying his name, are added to the flowers found across 300 selling points in the country famous for Ikebana.

From this exceptional experience, Emilio Robba maintains the discipline, the overview of the various products and the anticipation of the trends and changing tastes. His floral collections: Illusion and Trend, are not simple flower bouquets, but true fashion objects, exclusive and incomparable, prized by the general public as well as professionals of architecture and decoration. His reputation precedes him in his domain and permits him to offer his services to major hotel groups and the cruise line industry, while at the same time distributing his products around the world: Europe, the United States, South America, Japan, Morocco, the Emirates, Russia, and China…

‘From the first time I watched my mother arrange a simple bouquet of flowers in a brilliant array of colors; later again in my studies of design and painting at the Beaux Arts; and finally, in working as a florist myself — when it wasn’t yet called “l’art floral” (floral art) — and as a landscaper with my brother and sister in our first shop thirty years ago… My artistic yearnings were perhaps born here, nourishing my emotions with each passing day.

My career as a designer began formally in the early 80s, with a grand exhibit of orchids at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. With this exposure, Pierre Cardin asked me to open a retail store of flowers under the prestigious label “Maxim de Paris”. I decorated the President of the French Republic’s airplane, and the press dubbed me “sculptor of flowers”…

From this I gain the opportunity to travel the world: I discover Ikebana — the extraordinary Floral Art of Japan. It is a revelation to me. I then understand that nature is not naturally beautiful. Just as gardens need to be landscaped, flowers seeded, and trees pruned, structured floral compositions also need to reveal the infinite wealth in nature. Ikebana teaches me to construct while poised between balance and imbalance; a simple affair… with a great deal of technique! It’s work made invisible, only the purity and magic remains seen.

Nature is said to be perfect, but it is its imperfection that touches me most. This is doubtless why, for many years, I was disturbed by the notion of daring to replicate and to immortalize nature, so complex, so ephemeral, so vulnerable — somewhat similar to certain tribes who refuse to be photographed, fearing the theft of their soul; so I feared the theft of nature’s soul.

In the early 1990s, thanks to my many travels to Asia, I discovered new artificial flowers with startling natural qualities. My preconception of these flowers — often wrongfully called “artificial” — as inadequate was replaced with astonishment first and then with attraction and admiration. What I witnessed was a true transformation, afforded by new materials and modern techniques (both technological and handcrafted), which yielded flowers that truly recover the delicacy and fragility of the first flowers created by the Chinese centuries ago. A veritable painter’s palette, the rainbow of fabric colours available — from shockingly bright to delicate pastel, dazzlingly new or old-fashioned — is magnificent and seemingly infinite.

This new generation of silk flowers is so life-like (the silky transparency of their petals, the veins in their foliage filled with sap, and the bloom of their spring buds) that they can actually fill the same need we have in our lives for fresh flowers — with a unique personal touch! Going beyond the minimalist rigor of Ikebana, finally too distant from my own more effusive Latin culture, I taught myself to play with the forms to realize my own yearnings of nature, where the subtle run alongside the spectacular. I marry the two decor styles while allowing for all fantasies — such as noting the passage of seasons or ignoring them obstinately to live an eternal summer; one can also subject them to the insults of time, from their first bloom to their fading. And why not combine them with natural flowers as did Seguin, the 18th century French chemist and botanist who was the first to compose large arrangements allying real and artificial flowers into a perfect illusion.

Illusion is moreover the term I have chosen for our workshop’s flowers. I invite you to join me in my voyage to the land of eternal fantasy, a world of imagination and never-ending inspiration: Nature.’

In 2003, the Emilio Robba brand celebrated its 15-Year Anniversary of retail presence in the Japanese market with eight – 1500 sq ft – exhibitions in the most luxurious department stores; Takashimaya, Matsuzakaya…

In 2009, the Emilio Robba Group celebrated “30 years of creation”. Emilio Robba maintains his leading influence in the worldwide silk floral industry. His creations transcend the label of silk flower arrangements and are considered true sculptural accessories. Today, the Emilio Robba brand is known for its award winning nature-inspired home decor and recognized as a statement of good taste and “l’art de vivre”.

More information on http://www.emiliorobba.com

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