Part Greek, Belgian and Cypriot, Alina Dheere Babaletsos, has a background as impressive as her range of skills. A McQueens florist for over three years, Alina takes care of the weekly flowers and floral installations at some of London’s top restaurants and hotels. In her spare time, she combines the world of flowers with her passion for performance, theatre and cinema. We spoke to Alina to find out more about her role and how flowers play an important part in her love for performance and theatre.
What’s your story, Alina? Tell us about you and your journey so far…
I was born in Athens, lived in Cyprus, moved to Brussels at the age of 18, and came to study in London at the age of 20 — I’ve been living here ever since. I studied history of art and drama at Kingston University and did an intensive course in contemporary drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, followed by a masters degree in performance making at Goldsmiths, University of London. Afterwards, I performed and collaborated with performers, visual artists, actors and directors on theatre performances, visual installations, short films, music videos and the like.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to work at McQueens and this became a wonderful, unexpected passion in my life. In my spare time, I like to enjoy both worlds; for example, I have recently travelled to Athens to act in a short film that will come out later this year. I try to use my floristry knowledge to incorporate flowers into performance (and vice versa), most recently using flowers to create a living scenography in a theatre space in Zurich.
Do you think there are parallels that can be drawn between floristry and theatre?
Both are very ephemeral, but they have that one thing in common; they don’t stand still in time and yet they can have so much impact in a single moment in someone’s mind. Both in floristry and theatre, you can work very hard to create something beautiful, and after it has displayed or performed, it’s gone. I draw the same parallel between flowers and humans, from the moment a flower buds it grows, blooms and fades and I see the same thing in us. We have this moment to live and exist and, in this triviality of life, flowers remind me of that. We’re like flowers, and it’s the process of growing, blooming and fading that I find really beautiful.
“We have this moment to live and exist and, in this triviality of life, flowers remind me of this truth. We’re like flowers and it’s the process of growing, blooming and fading that I find really beautiful. “
How did you get into the world of flowers?
Alongside my performances, I was working part-time jobs but, as a recent graduate, it was difficult to get by at times. It just so happened that McQueens were looking for helpers, and I was very fortunate to be introduced to the company through a mutual friend. I started assisting the contracts team twice a week, and it was McQueens florist, Yeon Hee, who taught me how to make my first hand-tied bouquet. I remember my hands were aching so much, I shed a tear from the pain! That’s how I started learning – on the job. After a while, I asked for a permanent position and following a three-month trial (and lots of hard work), I was hired.
Walk us through a day in your life as a McQueens florist…
I’m in the contracts department, which requires a lot of hard work and the need to put together all of your skills. It’s not just flowers or floristry, I would say it’s everything and then flowers!
Every week I plan the next week ahead; I label my props and vases, choose a colour scheme or mood, create a mood board, contact my suppliers, oversee budgets, order flowers and sundries. The following week, the flowers arrive and we condition them, create the design, load it into the van (in the very early hours, as is normal in high-end restaurants and hotels where disruption needs to be minimised). The team usually starts early, we drive to the location, take down the previous installation, remove it and set up the new one. And so the cycle begins!
What do you love most about what you do?
Definitely the flowers and the opportunity to use my imagination. It’s exhausting work but this makes it worth it. That and the people — this company is full of amazing people, such diversity — we’re like the united nations here! And the teams – we create the most incredible things together. We’re like an army of florists! It’s like being on a film set when we set off to a large installation in a convoy of vans. I like the variety and the opportunity to work on my own things, too.
Do you have a favourite flower?
Hmm… Let me think, it’s such a difficult question.
I would say, hellebores and anemones are two of my favourite flowers but you constantly see and discover something new in this industry. You fall in love with a different flower every season. Butterfly ranunculus are incredible, too, I love how delicate they are. They’re all in season now so maybe that’s why they spring to mind.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Reading and the cinema! I love cooking, walking, seeing friends, and working on my projects but above all, reading, cinema and sleep!