Talking Collaboration, Poetry, Design & Beauty — Q&A with Florian Gonzalez of Jardins Florian

Goodlifer: Talking Collaboration, Poetry, Design & Beauty — Q&A with Florian Gonzalez of Jardins Florian

The word “curated” is certainly overused these days, but there really is no better way to describe the collection of items available at Jardins Florian. Launched a year and a half ago, this design Maison, online concept store and magazine emerged from founder Florian Gonzalez’ passion for humanity, craftsmanship, sustainability and innovation.

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Jardins Florian’s casual yet elegant tote bag subscribes to a “less is more” aesthetic and is made with a strong emphasis on durability and functionality.

Looking to appeal to customers who want to “combine the art of living well with the simple pleasure of being more responsible,” Jardins Florian collaborates with small or established design, fashion and luxury brands to create considered products that focus on craftsmanship, materials and durability. As a business, they subscribe to the slow philosophy, selecting to work with very few brands and introducing new product categories slowly. Gonzalez says he is in no hurry to grow the business and would rather see it expand organically. The shop never discounts products, which is very telling about how serious he is about protecting and supporting the brands he carries.

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“Our scented candles have been considered repeatedly as ‘the most beautiful candles in the world,'” says Florian

Recent products and collaborations include scented candles, a minimalist tote bag, a customized Rolex Explorer II watch, an exclusive model of Oat Shoes biodegradable sneakers, and a line of ballet flats handcrafted by the Milan-based historical house Porselli, which has been the supplier of La Scala for nearly a century.

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Jardins Florian’s recently launched ballerina collection was created in collaboration with historical house Porselli, the supplier of La Scala for almost a century.

Born a mere stones throw from the gardens of Versailles, Florian Gonzalez was surrounded by beauty from birth. His career path is an interesting one as well. Before starting Jardins Florian, he worked as an attorney at law, a general manager for an opera company and a licensing manager for Valentino. Surely Gonzalez must have some interesting stories to tell. We decided to ask him our 20 questions to find out more about his loves, inspirations and thoughts on the good life.

1. Describe yourself in three words:
In two words only: “I am”

2. First thing you did this morning?
I switched off the alarm-clock three times. Then I had some Moroccan mint tea I made myself. Then, after checking emails, I went to the bank.

3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Close to the sea with pine trees, fig trees, jasmine flowers in the garden, and a cat. So that could be pretty much on any Mediterranean island (Corsica, Sicily, Islas Baleares, Sardinia, etc.). But beyond my own fantasies on where I would like to be, being fully content with where we are at anytime is a constant and challenging practice.

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Florian Gonzalez with Paul Smith at the designer’s office

4. Favorite way to spend a Friday night?
Shutting down the computer early (like 5pm), walking for 30 minutes to unload the mind, meeting an old friend to have coffee (made the Italian way!) at a terrace and then maybe meeting two or three other friends for aperitivo with a nice wine bottle (preferably from a niche grower) on the table — simple and easy. Improvisation and spontaneity are key, even more so when it comes to the weekend.

5. Your hero?
There are are many but at the same time I don’t really believe in the ‘hero’ function and role because it implies some form of idealization and projection on who we believe someone is. Most people are just human when you get to truly know them, and it is beautiful this way. We can be bold and brave one day, stupid and foolish the following day. There are no 24/365 heroes. Having said that I am inspired by anybody who challenges the status quo like Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia. Having practiced martial arts for more than 20 years I feel inspired by true fighters who have the guts to go in a ring and put their life and health in danger while fully respecting their opponent, like Anderson Silva, GSP and Jon “Bone” Jones. Extreme sport athletes like slack-liners or base-jumpers do inspire me as well. But the true heroes are people who stop showing off and turn their quest inward — this requires ultimate bravery and humility.

6. Your style icon?
Hmmm, difficult one. As far as women are concerned, Rosario Dawson is very stylish, not so much for how she dresses, but for her elegance as a woman and her incredible smile. Check that Bullits clip if you want to know what I mean. It must be her combination of Latina warmth and New-Yorker energy that is so charming and so low-key at the same time. As far as men’s style is concerned, Justin Timberlake is very chilled and it translates in his own body movements and general attitude, and not just when he dances. It’s not a surprise that Tom Ford recently decided to partner with Justin.

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Customized Rolex Explorer II watch with a lifetime guarantee

7. Dream travel destination?
Tahiti and any Polynesian island! Yes that’s kitsch and cliché, but who cares.

8. Favorite item of clothing?
I like to wear casual items when working on the computer or at home — old jeans and a fresh linen white shirt are must. I have a Dolce & Gabbana belt that I wear almost all the time though I am not a Dolce & Gabbana customer, but at least this item has been amortized. When dressing up I use often cufflinks that my father offered me long time ago (gold and mother-of-pearl). For a change, I might treat myself to the recycled-silver cufflinks we just started to sell from Kirsten Muenster.

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Men’s cufflinks by Kirsten Muenster

9. Most treasured possession?
As I give away my things on a regular basis I don’t think there is anything left that is so ‘treasured.’ Having said that, one particular book containing a very ancient text is dear to me, not so much the book itself but the text. Its name will remain a secret.

10. Beverage of choice?
Champagne should be my answer as my mother was born there and I have so many friends who are knowledgeable and help me discover the small labels, which is an infinite pleasure. However I don’t like the show-off kitschy side of champagne branding. Probably more personal and subjective is my taste for liquorice liquor, which is mainly found in Italy and made with South-Italian liquorice. You love it or hate it as it is dark and very intense. Proper Indian chai tea is also a favorite.

11. Biggest food craving?
Moroccan couscous is something that makes me very happy, probably also because it is such a feast and family dish. On the gastronomy side, anything coming out of Alain Passard’s gardens and kitchen is pure bliss, truly a different dimension for the palate.

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A state-of-the-art fountain pen named Pentagon, designed by English designer Sam Hecht

12. If you had to live without one: TV, phone or email?
I just need email, I can get rid of TV and phone anytime. I don’t actually like speaking over the phone, I like to see my friends face-to-face.

13. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
A Milan-based showroom manager as we are discussing a new shoe collaboration. It has been in the making for so long that when we chat it sounds like old friends even though the product has not yet come out.

14. Favorite quote?
So many, hard to pick… Churchill and Oscar Wilde are infinite sources when it comes to kick-ass quotes. For this time I will share with your readers a quote that is a true invitation and not just a joke: “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh said that.

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Jardins Florian recently launched a shop-in-shop for prestigious U.K. eyewear label Cutler and Gross.

15. Morning person or night owl?
Definitely night owl, but there is such a moment of grace when you wake up before the sun and you feel fresh, alive and content while the sky opens in front of your eyes.

16. Summer, spring, winter or fall?
Weather has become so crazy that I kind of forgot what spring and fall are! Jokes aside, I try to adapt and enjoy whatever a season has to offer. Spring is fascinating, full of promises and energy but walking in the snow with a warm pea coat and thick scarf, hand-in-hand with your loved one is quite special as well.

17. Reduce, reuse or recycle?
All three, absolutely. I buy very few things and I take greatest care possible of them, whether we talk about clothing, shoes, bags, etc. But quite often I give my things away to friends so I actually own very little and it is perfect this way. When we developed our candles, having a glass vessel that would be re-used by customers was an absolute priority so that explains the glass we chose. Until recently I was suffering when I could not recycle things properly in a particular country or region (even in some London areas recycling should be encouraged/improved). Now I kind of accept that for many people, companies and countries it is not a priority and of course that is a threat for all of us but I have to acknowledge that sustainability and ecology have not yet reached the level of awareness and care that I thought they would get. It’s a work in progress.

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Limited edition bike, by Dutch brand Vanmoof

18. Main source of inspiration?
Life itself, constant curiosity, constant return to being surprised and mesmerized. Music, scents and visual elements are essential to me. And chocolate as well! Music has always been very present in my life and, for instance, yesterday I discovered the latest track from Thom Yorke (Ingenue) and it hit a very sweet spot, even more so as their video is stunning and a bit crazy, his Japanese dance partner is so beautiful and fluid. When we developed our first video collaboration (which can be viewed on the website) with Because Magazine and Tank agency, we got the privilege of launching worldwide a new track called “Wiped Out” from UK group Archive. When they sent me the track by email, I was in ecstasy as I played it on my PDA.

19. Best/most satisfying thing about the work you do?
Meeting with inspiring and fearless people. Having to ask difficult questions like “do you know where your wax comes from?” or “have you tried vegetable tanning?” Better design is a constant search and there is no certainty whatsoever. For instance we wish we could work under Cradle to Cradle principles constantly but as small venture dealing with many suppliers and brand partners it is actually very challenging because, beyond the costs of R&D, you need to convince first your brand partners and suppliers that things can be done better, more sustainably and, perhaps as well, more beautifully. I’ve become very aware of the fact that in business no one can go anywhere alone, it is all of a progressive and collective adventure. Patience has already been the most difficult but rewarding aspect of my work. With a small venture you often have to wait… that’s an important lesson in a society where we all want to believe we can get everything now.

20. What does the good life mean to you?
Giving. Giving time, love and attention.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
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