Japanese florist Azuma Makoto thinks flowers are like prayers. ‘From birth to anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, sympathy, encouragement, and even death, we entrust our various emotions to flowers and live with them,’ he says. 

‘When I work with flowers every day, I notice that flowers are never arranged with one hand, but always with the other hand. It looks as if I am praying, and I feel that this is in line with prayer, because I actually bind the flowers as if I am entrusting my feelings to them.’ 

Purple Oud sculpture

Purple Oud sculpture made from violets ‘surrounded by lively flowers that express the passionate scent encountered with this precious wood’

Makoto’s singular and devotional approach to flowers makes him one of the most intriguing creatives working in floristry today. His Tokyo store, Jardins des Fleurs, is fashioned as a ‘flower butchery’, where white-coated employees remove ‘living’ flowers from a fridge in the centre of the store, before cutting and arranging them on steel tabletops.

Past projects include freezing blocks of flowers for Dries Van Noten, shooting a 50-year-old bonsai tree into space, and, now, a collaboration with Dior Parfums on a series of ‘botanical sculptures’. 

Oud Rosewood sculpture by Azuma Makoto for Dior Parfums
Oud Rosewood sculpture is inspired by the ’smoky notes of wood and a mysterious atmosphere surrounds it. A layer of gentle scents, potently wrapped, lets the light shine through over time’ 

For this latest collaboration, Makoto has created eight sculptures, each inspired by a classic fragrance from Dior’s La Collection Privée perfume library and photographed by Makoto’s friend and long-time collaborator Shunsuke Shiinoki. The final collection of photographs is a series of compelling works that visualise the otherwise ephemeral fragrances.

‘The fragrances in La Collection Privée Christian Dior are full of the beauty and richness of floral scents that intersect and mix,’ says Makoto. ‘I wanted to visualise those images of flowers in a lot of layers.’ 

Dior Lucky sculpture

The Lucky sculpture pairs lily of the valley with ‘various spring and summer flowers in tones ranging from white to green, which reflect the journey of a scent through the scenery of the different seasons’

Fragrances such as Sakura are expressed through a verdant profession of cherry blossoms and other pink flowers. The fragrance is inspired by the moment in the spring when the flowers of the cherry tree burst into blossom and so Makoto chose to create ‘a very light, subtle pink-coloured universe that truly symbolises the keen yet understated sense of beauty that we have in Japan’.

Other creations see a great mix of colours and flower types, such as the sculpture for Oud Rosewood, a smoky, woody fragrance that Makoto recreated through shades of brown, ‘and soft creamy flowers with rounded shapes, illuminated by a touch of precious sparkle’.

The La Colle Noire sculpture by Azuma Makoto for Dior Parfums
The La Colle Noire sculpture, inspired by the roses at Christian Dior’s home near Grasse in the south of France. ‘It is like stepping into a garden full of roses, with fresh and rich shades of green. The shining glance of the sun highlights this sweet, brilliant universe,’ says Makoto

‘I believe that flowers have a mysterious power to appeal to people’s deepest inside emotions and memories, not just superficial ones,’ says Makoto. ‘They are not simply beautiful. They are mysterious, and are essential for humans, birds, bugs, animals and for all creatures equally. I think every kind of flower, at every moment of its life, is venerable and beautiful in its own existence.’ §

Gris Dior floral sculpture by Azuma Makoto for Dior Parfums
Gris Dior embodies the iconic colour of the house of Dior through flowers. ‘It is like discovering that the fragrance becomes richer and deeper over time’
For the Jasmin des Anges sculpture, by Azuma Makoto for Dior Parfums

For the Jasmin des Anges sculpture, Makoto ‘visualised the sweet aroma of apricot and jasmine, in the mood of late summer through to the beginning of autumn’