Thriving in the beautifully unique space where production design meets flora and fauna, Latisha Duarte has carved out a niche that's all her own. When I met her (twice! I couldn't get enough) I accidently sent her home late (twice!) because she is just one of those women you never want to stop listening to. Her South African pride can be felt instantly and my favorite part of our conversations were her vast descriptions of the landscape and nature of her homeland. After meeting her I immediately went home and searched for tickets to South Africa hoping that I one day could experience her fascinating botanical roots. #itsplantporn
IPP: WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW DID YOU END UP WORKING WITH PLANTS?
LD: I went to university for film and media and got frustrated when it wasn’t practical enough. A film school opened up in Cape Town at a similar time as my frustration so I decided to carry over to film school from university and focus on production design.
I switched my focus and did that [production design] for a very long time and then got my honours. I learned that whilst on set and designing -which often times can be frustrating or quite stressful – whenever I had plants or flowers around me on set I was really calm and grounded. So I really started to introduce them into every project I did whether it was required or not. And then that sort of sparked this thought in my mind that I should become a more niche designer who specialized in flora and fauna and plants.
The market for something like that is really small so it wasn’t really possible in Cape Town but when I moved to New York it became realistic. I really spent time focusing on honing those skills and after studying some horticulture and doing a lot of freelance floral design work, marrying the two is where I am now and it seems to be working.
IPP: WHAT IS YOUR FLORAL STYLE?
LD: Because of my background- growing up with a family of artists and all of them having such a distinct and strong aesthetic - I sort of push back a little on that. I like the whole collaborative process. The design has to embrace the story and uplift it and make it better and add value and details so I would say form follows function, you know?
My personal style tends to be quite stylized; simple but with sprinklings of detail. When it comes to a wedding, for example, if the bride wants romantic flowers… or if the film is about a serial killer in the middle of America… all these things influence the style.
I’m here to serve the story; I like that place. I think its so important to have flexibility within your own creativity and not get so caught up in one thing.
IPP: describe THE SOUTH AFRICAN FLORAL AESTHETIC.
LD: As a people we're a little rogue so I feel like that comes through in the work. Not to say its not refined or considered, it's just not as classical.
It can be a little unexpected -which I like- wilder, and typically using only local materials.
IPP: DESCRIBE THE LANDSCAPE OF SOUTH AFRICA.
LD: South Africa is one of the most dynamic landscapes in the world that I've seen. It has a little of every kind of magic: its where two oceans meet – Atlantic and Indian – it’s the apex of a continent, so it has warm Indian water with incredible surfing and waves and dolphins. And then the land – certainly in Cape Town- is suddenly ocean meet insane mountains. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and its mountains will take your breath away every single time. It has its own floral kingdom which is incredible and can only be found in the Western Cape. It is a micro kingdom but it is one of the seven floral kingdoms. We have Fynbos-- its kind of like a Protea-- and when you go for a walk they are everywhere. They have this earthy natty woody smell that permeates everything. So you have ocean and mountains and the most amazing plants that you’ve never seen before and the colors are just so complex. There’s a lot of diverse natural beauty – there's a bit of everything. And its pretty unspoiled.
IPP: WHAT DO YOU MISS THE MOST ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA?
LD: The thing I miss the most about South Africa is that you can feel the earth beneath your feet. There’s no subway or underground system that feels cavernous. You feel very physically upon the earth. And when you look up, there are only a few places where can’t see the horizon.
IPP: WHAT IS YOUR SPIRIT PLANT AND WHY?
LD: Barberton Daisy. It’s a simple flower that you can't find cut and its only grown in the town Barberton which is close to where I was born. You typically see them growing next to the highway. I like that it only grows in the place I was born. It is a simple and unassuming wildflower but you can’t get it anywhere else.
Thank you Latisha!
See more of Latisha's work here : www.latishaduarte.com