The intersection of 34th Street and Broadway was pulsating with activity on a magnificent spring day in the Big Apple. The sounds of Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Chinese, a smattering of Portuguese and even English joyously wafted through the air. Flags flew atop tall buildings and thousands of signs in a myriad of shapes, colors, and forms announced everything from sightseeing tours and fast-food restaurants to the retail homes of H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Staples and Macy’s.
The pedestrian mall on the Broadway side of Macy’s was also packed with a multitude of shapes, colors and forms. But I’m not referring to more signs or the mass of humanity packed into Herald Square. Rather, I’m talking about the colorful display of daring daffodils and timely tulips crowded into giant outdoor planters. There they danced in tune to a dizzying array of urban activity as Macy’s became center stage for street-side theater with its annual Flower Show, celebrated in all 40 of its windows.
This year’s show is called "Gardens in Paradise" and the theme is Brazil. Paul Olszewski, director of windows and interior flagship marketing for Macy's, has a knack for transporting us to magical places. There are two major philosophies that typically drive Olszewski’s annual Flower Show windows. One is taking each year’s marketing campaign (theme and title) and having fun with it. “It's important to have a sense of humor yet remain true to the overall theme,” Olszewski says. The other approach is to use the flowers in an unusual way, whether in a graphic manner (such as a window of clouds) or structural (like the iconic skyline of New York City). Olszewski believes that it’s his responsibility to entertain viewers and show the unexpected.
For the second year running, Macy’s featured Japanese floral designer Kenji Takenaka in its "Bouquet of the Day" window. The art of flower arranging is a legendary part of Japanese history, reflecting inner peace, serenity and harmony.
Takenaka takes a fresh approach to an ancient art – one in which the flower itself is the ultimate teacher of color, form, composition and every other aspect of design. His window featured hundreds of vibrant purple orchids, layers of lush hanging vines and other tropical greenery. Having never been to Brazil, Takanaka says he created a fantasy jungle scene with a touch of elegance and imagination.
The Macy’s Flower Show creates an urban paradise on Broadway's big stage. Through their artistry and sensitivity, Olszewski and Takanaka bring people together from across the globe and share their visions of exotic cultures and distant places. And in the end, they demonstrate that we are all flowers of the same garden.