We’re excited to introduce our 2023 #FSLiving Featured Florist, Donald Yim. You’ll find his stand-out floral designs throughout our latest Spring and Everyday 2023 catalogue.
Donald is an AIFD and PFCI-certified floral designer with over 30 years of experience. He has enjoyed a lot of success in the industry, like being featured in various internationally renowned magazines and representing Canada at premier international floral shows placing in the top five multiple times.
Before the success, Donald came from humble beginnings working in his sister’s flower shop as a delivery boy. What started as an opportunity meant to give Donald structure in life developed into a burning passion for flowers, teaching, and sharing his knowledge of floristry.
Now based in Vancouver, Donald has caught the industry’s attention with unique designs rooted in architectural shape and form, and deeply influenced by eastern and western culture. His unique approach to floral design has seen him rise to Creative Director at a local floral business from 1999 to 2020 before becoming Design Director with Smithers-Oasis North America, and Education Specialist at the Floriology Institute.
Donald continues to stay humble, believing he can learn new techniques from floral designers of any skill set. He is especially excited to teach and share his experiences with the Florists Supply community and hopes you will find genuine value in his insights throughout the year.
Learn more about Donald by watching his interview or reading his exclusive one-on-one below.
A Conversation with Donald Yim AIFD and Shane Kustra-Nelson, Florists Supply Marketing Coordinator
Shane: When you started as a Delivery Boy, did you know much about flowers?
Donald: No, nothing. My first job at my sister’s flower shop, I was asked to clean roses to be placed in bud vases. When I cleaned them, I stripped each rose of all its foliage, leaving only the head and stem. When my sister came back to check on me, she said “What are you doing! I told you to clean them up, not to strip all the leaves off.” The roses looked so ugly, and my sister was yelling at me. I had no idea what I was doing. It is one of my funniest stories to this day. We still joke about it.
Shane: That’s a great story! After such an eventful start, at what point did you figure you could make a career out of flower designing?
Donald: For the first 10 years of my career, I just wanted to make a living. But floristry is one of those industries where the more you learn, the more addicted you become. Every day is different. You find new flowers, styles, and techniques, which I like a lot.
I also realized there is so much opportunity in this industry to pursue. Many people think that floristry means buying a floral shop and that’s it. But it is actually a big industry with many positions like floral designer, buyer, educator, etc. Flower shops are only one part of this industry.
Shane: I don’t think people realize the size of the flower industry and all the positions needed to make its engine turn. Flowers are relatable to so many people and positively affect their well-being.
Donald: Exactly, that’s why I love flowers – they have this ability to make people happy. I love floral design.
Shane: That is why we give them for every occasion, right?
Donald: Yes, yes, yes.
Shane: Why did you move to Vancouver from Hong Kong, and how did this impact your career?
Donald: in the early 90s, my family travelled to Vancouver for a vacation, and we just loved it. A few years later, my family decided to immigrate there. It’s been 30 years now, and I still love it; it’s beautiful. The summer are so nice. It may rain a lot in winter, but the water makes the flowers so beautiful.
I have been impacted by so many talented people since moving here. It has been a place where I have learned so much about the industry. Moving to Vancouver gave me the opportunity to participate in my first design show when Florists Supply commissioned me to participate in their design show with Neville Mackay. I am so grateful for being asked to do this show because it opened so many opportunities for me. If I had stayed in Asia, I don’t know if id be where I am today.
Shane: What was this first opportunity like?
Donald: It was eye-opening for me. Laurie (Florists Supply President and CEO) called me and said I need 50 pieces for the show. I said what! 50 pieces? I thought this was a lot. Laurie laughed and said, “That’s small scale, Donald!” I was so nervous for this show, but I managed to get the 50 pieces done. I quickly learned that I needed to be fast and able to create multiple designs that look different, speak to a selling point, and create beauty. That is the skill of a designer.
Now I can make 80 pieces for a show, no problem.
Shane: That is crazy. It amazes me how fast designers can make not just arrangements but beautiful arrangements. How did you manage speed and quality when making arrangements in the beginning?
Donald: I’ve learned to pay less attention to details people can’t see and focus on selling points, creative flare, and relating the design to the audience. It is tough to learn what to prioritize. It just comes with experience.
Shane: Is going to different workshops or floral events something you would recommend to other florists?
Donald: Of course! In a floral shop, everyone from your boss to the customer tells you what and how to design. Workshops and events are like retreats where you can learn new techniques and styles you enjoy. Places where you can learn and try out new styles and techniques that speak to you.
Shane: So, you’re still learning?
Donald: Yes, I’m learning all the time. The new designers have new tricks I never thought of, and I learn from them. I’ll even volunteer and run buckets at a show just to learn.
Shane: there is always someone innovating and finding new ways.
Donald: Yes, exactly. You can learn from anyone, no matter your skill set.
Shane: I just want to point out your humorous and approachable personality. Have you always had a good sense of humour?
Donald: Yes! You know we work with beautiful flowers and environments, so why be serious? Of course, I am serious when I teach because I want you to learn as much as possible. After that, you have to have fun, or you won’t learn to create beautiful things.
Shane: That is super interesting. I have never thought about it like that. So, you’re saying that your mood can affect what type of vibe your arrangement gives off?
Donald: It’s about your Energy. You reflect your energy into your design which will affect the feel of a floral design.
Shane: Kind of like a reflection of self-based on what the customer wants.
Donald: Of course! You can’t do anything you want, but your mood will reflect in the overall design.
Shane: You are an AIFD Certified Floral designer, one of 34 in Canada. Can you tell us a little bit about why you got this certification?
Donald: This is an American certification, but many Canadians will get certified because of the opportunity they provide for Education in the industry. You can find workshops on becoming a floral designer, shop owner, educator, and more. They also have a 5-day symposium annually that includes shows, workshops, and seminars.
Becoming AIFD was the best thing to ever happened in my career, and I have learned so much. Even if you are only working in the backroom picking up buckets at AIFD Events, it becomes an opportunity to share and learn from other designers. I highly recommend that people just go down and see the symposium.
Shane: You have worked in various roles in this industry. From a Creative Director at a local Floral business in 1999, to Design Director with Smithers-Oasis North America and now also Education Specialist at the Floriology Institute. What are your favourite parts about each of these roles you’ve worked in?
Donald: My favourite part about each of these roles is the sharing of knowledge and experience. Whether it’s working with a team or doing a design show, these roles allow me to share my passion, knowledge, and learn from others.
Shane: Now that we have talked a bit about your journey, can you pinpoint your most memorable moment working in floristry?
Donald: I have so many! If I had to choose one, I’d say it would be the 2019 World Flower Competition in China where I represented Canada and placed 5th out of 33 contestants from 32 countries.
Shane: You’ve had some incredible experiences, Donald. Looking back on it all, what advice would you give yourself 30 years ago when you were just entering the floral design world?
Donald: I would say nothing. Each experience and mistake I’ve made has let me grow into who I am today. I learn by doing it, and I wouldn’t change my journey at all.
Shane: On your website, you have a slogan that says “be a voice, not an Echo” can you explain what this means to you and what you hope others take from it?
Donald: It means flowers are tools to express yourself. So, what I mean is that I want you to create your own style and not copy others. Yes, when you learn a new style, you copy others until you master it. After that, I want others to identify their own aesthetic and create their own style.
Shane: So, where do you seek inspiration to create your own style?
Donald: It is as simple as walking in the park or the city and picking out interesting elements in your surroundings. I particularly like architecture for its shape and form, which has become my signature style.
Shane: That’s a really great way to look for inspiration, and it is so simple. What other passions do you have outside of floristry?
Donald: I like photography, travelling, the outdoors, and meeting people. I like travelling and nature the most because I want to see things and places for myself.
Shane: Sounds like good balance. So, what’s next for Donald Yim?
Donald: I’ll be concentrating on my Youtube channel by making better videos and sharing more ideas with my audience. It is growing, and I love doing videos. Other than that, Education will be my big thing in 2023.
Shane: That’s great! I’ll definitely be checking out that channel throughout the year. Before we conclude our interview, we have to ask – What’s your favourite flower and why?
Donald: I have favourite go flowers, but I try not to concentrate on one flower. Because if I had a go-to flower, I would overuse it and never use other flowers. Flowers are a tool for me, and you never know when a different one can be helpful in a design
Want to continue to follow Donald’s flowering career? Find him on Instagram, @donaldyimaifd, Youtube, and Facebook. Follow us on Instagram to find more opportunities to learn and be inspired by Donald.