War of the roses
N Anita Amreen Entertainment

The biggest contenders in the industry

  • Tootli Rahman 
    Photo- Courtesy
  • Nilufar Farooq 
    Photo- Courtesy
  • Sigma Mehdi 
    Photo- Courtesy

Sygmaz

Sigma Mehdi is the current undisputed queen of event planning and decor. Bringing a certain panache to each event, she is all about gifted imagination and sensational designs. With her natural talent for décor and design, there really is no space that she cannot transform into a magical setting. She is all about breaking boundaries and she knows just how to make a lasting mark in the wedding world. We talked to the creative head and owner of Sygmaz and found out the secret to her unstoppable success. 

What attracted you to this industry?

To be honest, I never really had plans to be an event planner or a decorator. I started off with other partners and we opened our floral boutique Ferns N’ Petals. Later on, I rebranded that to Sygmaz and went solo, and began my own company. When I got married in 2001 I decided to decorate my own event, and soon I began helping friends with their wedding décor. I felt naturally inclined towards the heady world of event planning and décor in particular. Soon when I had other people request my services, I thought why not make this my primary focus? And that is how it really began.

As the owner of a floral boutique, how important are flower arrangements for your events?

While there certainly are trends that move away from flowers and towards other elements such as lighting, I think flowers remain central to my themes. For me, regardless of how I’m decorating a place, I really do think that our floral arrangements have been our core selling point. We haven’t moved away from the way we use our flowers. No matter which trends come and go, I think flowers are here to stay and they add a certain richness to an event.

If there are three elements that can truly transform an event, what would they be?

Lights, fabric and style. Lights can absolutely transform a place. I like warm lighting and I love the use of spotlights. I use spotlights to highlight my décor and subdue the lighting in places that you don’t want to attract attention to. As for fabric, my personal preference is white. Not only does it make the room look bigger, but it looks very neat. I make it a point to ensure that my whites are pristine and flawless. Lastly, to truly bring an event together, you need your own personal touch, your very own style.

What is the secret to your success?

To put it simply, I’d say it’s my hard work, supervision, constant monitoring, my relationship with others (namely PR) and most importantly my commitment. I truly believe that it’s very important to stick to your word and promise.

Tootli

The ultimate pioneer behind the blooming floral industry, Tootli Rahman is synonymous to class, elegance and sophistication. A leading event planner, fashion designer and a pioneer in garden landscaping, Tootli wears more than one hat. As a woman who is well versed in the art of a party, today we find out how it all began and where she sees the industry going from here. 

You have been the pioneer behind turning weddings into custom soirees where floral artistry played a key part. Tell us how it all started.

Back in the day, weddings were a simple, homely affair. There weren’t any decorators, event managers or any need for a special kind of decor. I started off with planning a friend’s wedding! It was at Sheraton Winter Garden and the possibilities of turning it into a magical setting were endless. I realised how beautifully a place can be transformed with a few personal touches. I used flowers for the first time and a colour co-ordinated shamiana. It made a huge difference. That’s when I came up with the idea of a themed wedding, keeping flowers as the central element. At that time, they weren’t as widely available as they are today. However, there was a florist shop called Rosarium that had exquisite flowers. More people started requesting me to do themed weddings for them and all of a sudden the industry started booming. From then onwards, the trend for theme weddings began and it was hard for me to keep up with the endless requests.

Despite your limited resources, how did you manage to put up such beautiful wedding extravaganzas?

At that time, as I said, there weren’t any decorators or event managers. I was the only one so I had to do most of the designing and implementing single-handedly. Also, there was no Internet then as there is now. I had to come up with everything by myself, from the stage décor to how I’d like to set up the tables. Since the demand for theme weddings was so high, there came a point where I had to do everything on my own from scratch. I expanded and got everything that was required for a wedding for 500. Even when it comes to fairy lights we see these days, I first saw them during a trip to Bangkok. I was absolutely enchanted! I came back and told my people here to recreate those using torch bulbs and we did. Fairy lights, candles and flowers – all of this added a magical effect to my events.

According to you, how has the floral industry evolved over time? 

Well, now there are tonnes and tonnes of florists who bring in flowers from China and Bangkok. Before, there was no need for it. While people still prefer using fresh flowers at weddings, I think nowadays they’re also moving towards other alternatives. Artificial silk flowers are beautiful – they’re so full and they look absolutely lovely when paired with fresh flowers. A common misconception is that they’re plastic, which they aren’t. I find it so wasteful and sad to spend lakhs and lakhs on fresh flowers only to throw them away the next day. This is one of the reasons why I have my own collection of silk flowers and I use them in combination with fresh flowers. They’re both reusable and absolutely beautiful. 

Back in the day, you were the only event planner out there. Today we see many of them. What are your views on this suddenly booming industry?

I think the Internet has really opened up many avenues. It is so much easier to become an event planner now than it was back then. You don’t really have to be that creative now, you can look things up on the Internet, make a few trips to China and Bangkok and quickly set up your own company. Having said that, the ones that succeed in this field are the ones who are creative, can think out of the box and know how to put ideas together.  Right now there are hundreds and hundreds of people in this industry and some of them are doing absolutely phenomenal work.

Ikebana

From the very offset, Nilufar Farooq has made unconventional choices. Her passion and love for flowers led her to pursue a degree in the art of Japanese flower arrangement from Ohara, Japan. Her creative genius helped her ideas grow, one pedal at a time, finally opening Ikebana, her very own floral boutique. Having won the Oustanding Woman in Business Award in 2007 for her entrepreneurship, she has made a prominent mark in the industry. It’s been over 20 years since she started, from a small shop selling decorative flowers and plants, it is now one of the leading names in the industry, with a strong reputation for providing only the best of services. From event décor, to landscaping and waterscaping, Ikebana has it all covered. Today we talk to the pioneer behind the first floral boutique and how she drew inspiration from her surroundings.

How did you get into floral work?

I think my greatest inspiration came from family events. Around the late 60s most other people didn’t really have any decorative input into their events, let alone any flower arrangements. However, in our family, we always made an effort to use floral arrangements, or even backdrops. We loved the idea of Mughal style décor. I loved the art form so much that I went to Ohara school to learn the art of flower arrangements and I came back to teach my people here. I taught for around 10 years, and in 1992 I started my first floral boutique in Dhanmondi called Ikebana. We sold bonsai plants, cactus or other small plants.

From only focusing on floral arrangements, you slowly stepped into event décor and planning. How did that happen?

I always had great ambition and big plans for Ikebana. Getting into event décor was my initial plan, but I built on my skills and resources and slowly stepped into the industry when I was totally confident of the direction in which we would be heading. At first we only did floral arrangements or bouquets and perhaps a few weddings here and there. Our first big break came in 1993 when Bangladesh hosted the SAARC summit. I realised Dhaka couldn’t meet the high demands for different kinds of flowers. That’s when I flew to Bangkok and got orchids. From then onwards I began getting flowers from abroad to meet the demand back in our country. 

How have trends changed over time?

I personally think fresh flowers are always a beautiful part of an event’s décor. Although we are using artificial flowers in conjunction with fresh ones, there will always be high demand for fresh flowers. Before, there were just floral arrangements that were all the rage. However, nowadays, people want more than just that. Indian trends for concepts such as Mughal inspired backdrops or even stages that have a very grand Taj Mahal inspired presence are evident. People are moving away from conventional floral focused stages to the ones that use hardboard and cork sheet to create an absolutely new concept. 

Tell us a few differences you see in the industry from now and then.

Well, before as there weren’t too many of us in this business, there was a sense of camaraderie. There was no Internet so there was certain originality to everyone’s ideas. Nowadays, to me it seems that we’ve lost that sense of fun, that sense of unity. These days, weddings seem to be a competition of who can have the grandest event or who has the most expensive set up. It’s all about outdoing the rest and this has given way to tough competition among most of the leading names in this business.

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