“I grew up in Holland and that’s where the seed was planted—no pun intended,” says floral designer Frederique Van Der Wal. “Holland is a country of flowers; growing up, I was always surrounded by them.” But when Van Der Wal moved to New York at age 18, she felt a void. “When you leave your country, you start realizing the things you suddenly took for granted. One of those things was definitely flowers,” she says. “It had always been a part of my life to have living things around me and in a city like New York, it’s slim pickings.”
Formerly a model for big names like Victoria’s Secret, Guess? and Revlon, Van Der Wal traded in fashion for florals after the Dutch government named a lily after her. “I was brought over and got to choose the breed. It was a very humbling experience,” she says. It was this process that inspired Van Der Wal to create the Discovery Channel television program The Invisible Journey, which investigated how flowers are transported around the world—it was also what lead her to find her calling. In 2008, Van Der Wal launched Frederique’s Choice, an e-commerce business selling curated bouquets. “Combining my knowledge of fashion, something that was meaningful to me and starting my own company was something that felt right,” she says.
On any given day, you might find Van Der Wal at the office, working in the workshop artfully arranging bouquets or still dabbling in television. Van Der Wal recently filmed the TV show Homegrown Makeovers for which she revamped private homes by incorporating flowers and plants in them. As for the toughest adjustment from modeling to the flower business, she says, “office days have been a new entering in my life. I’m used to always being on the go. That’s why I need flowers. Otherwise I’d go bananas.” Working directly with a grower, Van Der Wal offers bundles for bi-weekly and monthly subscriptions, special occasion flowers or even blooms based on horoscopes. Everything, down to the packaging, has been handpicked and designed to be sustainable.
Since launching, Frederique’s Choice has expanded in Europe and recently opened for business in the United States. “My dream has always been to come to America and tell the story of how wonderful it is to live with flowers,” she says. “One thing we’re trying to do is make flowers an everyday thing. It’s not only for an occasion. Having them around changes your mood and home.”
This year, Van Der Wal returned to Fashion Week through a different lens. She collaborated with designer Nicholas K, bringing life to the show with flowers to complement the spring 2016 collection. Hand-picking the blossoms, Van Der Wal curated a flower box with a spray of burnt-orange roses for a select group of guests.
“Over the years, I’ve always been involved with certain designers who have asked me to be [at Fashion Week], but it felt very meaningful to add something to it,” she says. “It’s funny when you look back at these things and somehow they’re meant to be. It’s like you’re connecting the dots and suddenly there it is.”