Francoise Ozawa, the co-creative director of the delightfully unorthodox Singapore botanical studio This Humid House (THH) recently relocated back to her hometown of Paris to oversee a big moment for the company: the opening of its first branch in the French capital, tentatively to be located on the Left Bank.
“I was born and raised in Paris and perhaps subconsciously, I’ve always thought about how our approach to botanical design might translate in Europe. It was however the work that we were already doing for Europe-based clients that planted the seed,” she explains. On her agenda at press time: growing a new crop of local suppliers in preparation for the launch in January.
Daily sights of local produce at the market.
Hello Francoise, what does your day-to-day look like now, especially since you’re preparing for that big launch of THH’s Parisian outpost?
“I timed my move to Paris with the summer holidays here in France. I thought it would be great to begin on a relaxed note and, so far, so good!
My family is just beginning to settle in and my days are pretty eclectic. I make sure to touch base with Singapore first thing in the morning (that’s right after lunchtime in Singapore) and I end my day with some working notes for the team for when they awaken – there are a few exciting projects that I am simultaneously working on in Singapore!
Ozawa returned to her native Paris in August to set up This Humid House’s first branch in the French capital.
Time in between is spent on research, admin and meetings, and I try to take a detour somewhere interesting after a meeting, to a park or garden or market or gallery – all in the name of research!
I am especially enjoying my meetings with suppliers… I’ve been so blown away by the wonderful materials I’ve been seeing that I can’t wait to use! We’ve only been able to do the work we do in Singapore because of our amazing network of growers and suppliers; cultivating a strong network here is one of my top priorities!”
Some flowers seen on Francoise Ozawa’s stroll along Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden in Paris.
Why did you choose Paris as the first overseas outpost for THH?
“The Paris I am returning to after years abroad is far more diverse and international than the city I grew up in and where (THH founder) John and I, thought there was a real opportunity here to express this through the language of plants and flowers.”
How has the pandemic affected your day-to-day routine?
“I am thankful that the pandemic gave me the opportunity to work more from home and spend less time commuting.”
From the city’s wild greenery to its architecture and even ingredients in the markets, Ozawa remains captivated and inspired by Paris.
Could you share how the move has affected your routine?
The pandemic forced our company to level up with technology in a way that is particularly helpful now that we are in different time zones. My routine is still quite similar in that I’m still behind my laptop a lot of the time!”
What does your own background look like prior to joining THH?
“I grew up thinking that I should study Science, and I majored in Biochemistry, but I’ve craved working in a creative field for as long as I can remember. Timing is everything, and it so happens that when I met John in 2017, I was ready for a big change!”
Untrimmed landscapes which Ozawa spots during her strolls often serve as inspiration as a botanical designer.
What challenges are you currently facing in your unique position of leading the Parisian outpost?
“For the moment, it’s just me in Paris, but we are lucky to have THH alumni just a shout away, in Zurich and in London! We are also looking to grow our team here. Eventually, we’d love to have our designers from both sides over for exchanges!
Early on, John and I decided that we really wanted to approach THH Paris with as little preconceived notions of what the work might look like. I’ve been pretty intentional about giving myself the time and space to just look, listen and observe; to soak in this new environment. I have to say, it’s been a real gift to be able to come back to France and see everything with fresh eyes!”
According to Ozawa, the Paris mayor is aggressively changing the city to be greener.
The richly botanical style has made THH such a success in Singapore – how will THH adapt its signature aesthetic to a vastly different setting?
“I think we found success in Singapore because we were able to convey throughout work, ideas that rose above style and aesthetics as an end in itself. Our intentions in Paris are the same as they are in Singapore, to reach people through a language expressed through flowers; delighting them and ourselves in the process.”
Is there a philosophy you personally abide by or anyone that has particularly influenced your work?
“This is perhaps an unsatisfying answer, but inspiration could come from literally anything! From art, music, dance, film etc… It can even be trash that has been put out on the street that had fell together in a way that made me look twice.”
Scroll on to see Ozawa break down her day for us.
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