Anyone who thinks the most imaginative looks on the runway happen during Fashion Week has clearly never been to Fleurotica, the incredible merging of floral and fashion design that took place at Chicago’s Garfield Park Observatory on Friday night. Garnering my first invitation to the 11-year-old event this year, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I entered the conservatory’s glorious, palm-filled atrium. Ibut quickly came to find that the inspiration wasn’t only on the catwalk, but in the mission of the annual fundraiser. While the fantastical fashion was the draw, the focus was clearly on community; specifically, the often underserved youth of Chicago’s West Side. The teenaged talents of the Joffrey Ballet’s Community Engagement Exelon Strobel Dancers set a celebratory mood, and with good reason: Fleurotica 2019 raised over $200,000 for the conservatory and the programs and access it provides. Particularly impressive is their Urban Roots Teen Docent program , which gives students at nearby Al Raby High School a crash course in horticulture, providing them with skills, a better understanding of the environment, and the opportunity to earn via summer internships. Floral designer Brittney Kee , who participated in her third Fleurotica this year, knows well the impact early nature education can have; she began floral arranging at age 15 while a student at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. Now an independent floral designer specializing in weddings and events, Kee describes her aesthetic as “classic, timeless, textural, lush and unique.” Via email, she shared with The Glow Up how her early education—and inspiration from Fleurotica—fueled her professional career. “I [used] to dream about being in the show when I graduated from [Michigan State University, where she majored in horticulture],” Kee recalled, noting that she’d finally gotten the opportunity to participate as a solo artist […]

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