Meet Pompei Perez, Florists Supply’s Commercial Designer at our Winnipeg Branch of 25 years. Pompei is an experienced designer who has even worked at Buckingham Palace for the Royal Family! Today, Pompei looks after designing and creating large-scale installations using Florists Supply supplies and permanent botanicals at places like the airport and City Hall in Winnipeg.
How did you get started?
I started when I was 20 years old back home in the Philippines, working in a five-star hotel’s banquet area. They saw potential in me and sent me to the Hong-Kong peninsula to study banquet designing. My studies included food design or anything that would be presentable to an important guest, such as a Head of State. Once I graduated from designing at the Peninsula Hotel, I was sent to work in Sultanate of Oman in the Muscat Palace Hotel to work for the King. I oversaw designing banquet events for the King and the Heads of State. I went where the King went for 5 years.
Then I had the privilege to work at Buckingham Palace, where I worked for another 5 years. During my time there, I was part of a crew of five who helped design the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. My crew oversaw the banquet, where we designed the food and flowers.
I found myself in Winnipeg in 1988 to be with my fiancée. I brought all my knowledge of designing to Winnipeg, but had a challenging time finding where my design ideas applied in this market. I worked at a downtown Hotel in the casino. I thought their banquet set-up would be similar to a five-Star hotel, but because it was only a three-star hotel, my designs didn’t really work.
Then I worked for a wholesale company, which required me to switch my knowledge of food design to artificial plants and flowers. I started designing custom artificial trees, show homes, and artificial interior landscaping.
How did you get started at Florists Supply?
My former manager at my last employer was hired at Florist Supply. She saw that I had left the company we both worked for, and approached me with Florists Supply’s then CEO. They asked if I could do commercial designing for them as that service didn’t exist at the time. That’s how it all started.
What are your favourite accomplishments in the industry?
Oh, there are lots! When I came over to Florists Supply, we thought of ways to grow the design department. Because I was already supplying many furniture stores and show homes, we decided to bring all the items I needed into the warehouse to expand into designing the trees themselves. We used to have lots of trees in the shop, like 100 or more, and I would customize them. Eventually, designing all these custom trees no longer became viable, so I concentrated on commercial design.
The largest project I had was creating seasonal interior landscaping for two new casinos in Winnipeg. I also designed all the restaurants, lobbies, and rooms for a new hotel chain for all of their locations from Winnipeg to the U.S.
What are some of the challenges of working in this industry?
Like many other industries, having the client buy into your proposal when they have their own vision is always a fun challenge. We create detailed and in-depth proposals to help the client envision our designs more.
Another challenge is working on escape room designs. For instance, they may give you a Sahara theme to create. These are challenging designs that require you to really sit down and think about what materials you’re going to use. After you’ve figured out what materials will work, you have to decide how to make a cohesive and effective design, which requires you to hold your head and think.
What do you most enjoy about the design industry?
Oh, I enjoy the designing! It’s the main thing for me. Because every design is different, you learn something new almost every day. You have to keep thinking about how to adapt your design to the situation, which also makes you a better salesperson.
Thinking more about holiday decorating, what is one thing you would advise someone to never do when decorating a tree?
Oh, don’t fall off the ladder! But seriously, in commercial, you’re not doing small 5 or 6 foot trees, you’re doing like 12 feet and above – you’re way up there. You can’t do the design without going up the tree, so you have to make sure that you don’t fall off the ladder. Then you must make sure you have a system to design the tree. Decide whether you’re decorating up and down, or around the tree.
Do you do the decorations in your home during the holidays?
No, they don’t pay me! My wife is always the boss at home, and she enjoys doing it without my help. I’ll only step in when she asks for advice. Totally her department.
What are some of your favourite hobbies other than design?
Hobbies after the busy holiday season is a great way to relax. In November, we start getting busy setting up displays for our clients. Then after the holidays, what we put up must come down, which is a lot of work. Once spring and summer come around, you must do other things that you enjoy. I golf almost every day, and I fish with friends during this season.
What are your favourite design trends, past or present?
It’s hard to say because everything is different. I think everything is my favourite because every design depends on that specific company, project, or situation. For example, if I design for City Hall, it’s different from a design I’d do for the airport. I’d say I like them all.
Stay tuned for more insightful conversations as part of our 85th-anniversary celebration.