Olyphant Designer’s Arrangements Help Spread #MeToo Message
Dorian Butovitch speaks the language of flowers fluently.
Though, most of his life, the blooms led the way.
In February, the designer and owner of Central Park Flowers, Olyphant, worked with fashion designer Prabal Gurung to make a statement using flowers during Gurung’s fall/winter show at New York Fashion Week that stood in solidarity with the “Me Too” movement.
The global campaign, whose hashtag went viral in October, demonstrated the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and took hold after years of sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light.
Gurung, known for sitting feminist icon Gloria Steinem in the front row by his runways and sending models out in shirts reading “The future is female,” searched for the perfect way to incorporate the message into his show.
Butovitch, who began his career in New York City, heard through a public relations firm he works with, JMG Public Relations, that Gurung needed a flower designer.
“I had no details, but I agreed to it anyway,” Butovitch, 40, said on a recent afternoon in his showroom. “When it was going to happen, then it was all about working with Prabal to see what he wanted.”
When Butovitch heard of the designer’s “Me Too” intent, his mind went to the two most important people in this life: his wife, Eloise, and their 11-year-old daughter, Anaïs, a vivacious athlete with a passion for basketball.
“They’re the reason I work. They’re the reason I am,” he said. “Anything I can do to make their lives better, I will.”
Ideas flowed as Butovitch met with Gurung and the two discussed their options. They chose the Japanese lisanthius, which, to a casual audience member, looks like any white flower. But Butovitch knew, down to the slightest detail, how the flower would behave during the fashion show.
Delicate but strong, Japanese lisanthius has longevity and retained its integrity no matter the strain placed on it. The heads did not wilt but rather held themselves high.
Looking back, Butovitch said he never realized the similarities between the flower and “Me Too’s” message of strength.
It wasn’t the first time flowers showed him the way.
Butovitch started to work with flowers as a 16-year-old when he needed to make money to pay off a speeding ticket. He took a job at a flower shop in his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, picking up skills that helped him land a part-time gig at L’Olivier Floral Atelier, owned by designer Olivier Giugni, while studying at Fordham University in New York City.
“He was so talented, and I learned so much,” Butovitch said of Giugni. “He’s the one that really showed me what flowers can do. ... I went in (studying) pre-law and came out an art history major.”
Working with Olivier’s top-tier clientele granted Butovitch access to exclusive places, such as the Versace house and Madonna’s home as well as events in the city and the Hamptons.
“I mean, (I) wasn’t at the parties; I was coming in through the service entrance,” Butovitch said with a laugh. “It was still such a great experience.”
Butovitch worked with Giugni for several years. Soon after, Butovitch began freelance flower design throughout the city and held weekly jobs inside Manhattan restaurants, including Windows on the World inside the World Trade Center’s North Tower. After 9/11, Butovitch provided flowers for the funerals of restaurant workers and patrons he got to know over the years.
“After the funerals, I needed a break,” Butovitch said. “I stepped away from flowers and really just took some time away.”
Butovitch worked in banking for a bit before he and his wife decided to start their family. After their daughter was born, they looked to raise her away from the city. The Butovitches had family in Northeast Pennsylvania and thought the area was just what they were looking for. They scooped up a former convent in Olyphant on Willow Avenue near the river, a spot that sparked Butovitch’s interest in flower design to return. Since Butovitch opened Central Park Flowers on the home’s first floor, clients have taken him from Chicago to Italy and more. Butovitch also has an extensive list of local clientele and does weddings and corporate events.
“We’ve had great business and met great people,” Butovitch said. “We love it here.”
Back in his former city the day of Gurung’s show, Butovitch was filled with nerves. Like with any event, he wanted everything to go right. Butovitch helped backstage and handed off one flower to each of the 45 models, including notables Gigi and Bella Hadid and Ashley Graham. Unlike a typical fashion show, the models descended down the runway together during the final walk, each holding a Japanese lisanthius. Tarana Burke, who founded the “Me Too” movement long before the hashtag campaign began, sat in the front row.
“Dorian does such beautiful work, and he’s really able to tell a larger story with flowers,” said Lauren Cooper, public relations and marketing manager at Prabal Gurung. “It was just a great partnership and created a beautiful moment of solidarity.”
Working with Gurung, whom Butovitch called “kind” and “real,” the experience of the show helped Butovitch see the impact flowers can have.
“We all can do something to spread a message. We should never stop talking about it and never stop taking action for the way you want things to be,” he said. “Just because something might be over or out of the media doesn’t mean it goes away. It should be in our lives every day.”
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Meet Dorian Butovitch
Residence: A native of Stamford, Connecticut, who lived in New York City for several years, Butovitch now lives in Olyphant with his wife, Eloise, and their daughter, Anaïs, 11.
At work: Owner and designer of Central Park Flowers, 126 Willow Ave., Olyphant
Claim to fame: Butovitvch worked with fashion designer Prabal Gurung during the designer’s fall/winter New York Fashion Week show to send a message of solidarity with the “Me Too” movement. They worked to choose the perfect flower to tell the story. During the show’s finale, the models walked together down the runway, each holding a Japanese lisanthius.
The “Me Too” movement is a global campaign that caught fire as a social media hashtag in October and meant to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Tarana Burke, who founded the nonprofit Just Be Inc. to help survivors of sexual harassment and assault, started the “Me Too” movement in 2007. After allegations of years of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light last year, the movement became more prominent, particularly after actress Alyssa Milano promoted #MeToo on her Twitter account in the fall.