Rodrigo “Varito” Vásquez, AIFD, CFD, FSMD, FPCF

Floral director at The Special Event Resource & Design Group

Owner of R.Varito Designs & Institute LLC

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Self portrait
Rodrigo “Varito” Vásquez, AIFD, CFD, FSMD, FPCF

Every floral designer’s hope is to create a signature style, something that is unique to him or her. When we see wire masterfully crafted into a piece of art, one person immediately comes to mind: Rodrigo “Varito” VásquezAIFDCFDFSMDFPCFfloral director at The Special Event Resource & Design Group and owner of R.Varito Designs & Institute, both in West Palm Beach, Fla. 

Originally from San José, Costa Rica, Vásquez began his studies as a musician in 1972, when he was 7 years old, and he graduated from secondary school (high school) with a degree in musical arts. At university, he earned bachelor’s degree in hotel management, but in 1990, at age 25, he opened a floral studio, Varo Flowers, in Costa Rica. After nearly 25 years as a successful floral designer in Costa Rica, Vásquez moved to the United States in 2014, where he became an avid floral design competitor, started his quest to become an “Accredited Member of AIFD” and, along the way, developed a reputation for creating spectacular floral jewelry. 

Floral arrangement

FR: Where did your interest in floral jewelry originate, and how have you developed your proficiency and expertise in that area?

RV: My fascination with jewelry started when I was doing the beading and embroidery on dresses in my mother’s wedding shop in Costa Rica. I started working with decorative wire and flowers, and people kept telling me this was how I should brand myself in the flower industry. I first practiced with flat wire and lily grass, but it was plain and not impressive. Then I called a friend, who was a jewelry artisan in Costa Rica, and he put me in contact with a jeweler in Spain, with whom I started a mentorship. I learned to work with copper, silver, gold and precious stones. To this day, my daily routine includes taking a piece of wire and testing new techniques. I have a box of copper, rustic and regular wire next to my bed, and I work with it before I go to sleep every night. It helps me perfect myself. It is all about practice, practice, practice.

FR: Are your quests for creative inspiration and rejuvenation spontaneous and organic, or are they planned – or both?

RV: I do not plan anything. I enjoy when something happens organically or spontaneously. When I am working with wire, for example, I let the wire “talk” to me. This takes me where I want to go. I am confident in that moment of inspiration, and I have no fear of failure. Instead, I create something unique and personal. No matter what, nothing is ever wrong. It is, instead, my inspiration to see things in a different light and to push my limits outside the box and expand my comfort zone.

FR: Tell us a little bit about your career and how you started in flowers.

RV: In 1990, when I was 25, I changed my career from the hospitality industry to the flower industry. I opened a retail flower shop, Varo Flowers, in Costa Rica, and after a couple of years, I started specializing in weddings, banquets, conventions and corporate events. At first, I learned by taking classes presented by Smithers-Oasis in Latin America, but as time went by, I wanted to learn more, so after 24 years, I closed my business and moved to Florida in 2014. That’s when I started entering floral design competitions and started preparing to become certified by AIFD [American Institute of Floral Designers]. I joined the Florida State Florists’ Association, and in 2016, I earned my FSMD (Florida State Master Designer) and FPCF (Florida Professional Certified Florist) credentials. In 2018, I realized my dream and was inducted into AIFD.

FR: Tell us more about moving to the U.S. and starting over in a different country.

RVV: I started working in flower shops as a designer, learning the American style. Flower arrangements in the U.S. are totally different than in Latin America, where they are more European style and full of flowers. I had to adapt my brain to it, but it wasn’t hard; it just took some time. At the same time, I was taking classes, reading, doing research and preparing to test for AIFD. Since then, I started R.Varito Designs & Institute, and I also work as the floral director for The Special Event Resource & Design Group, one of the biggest event companies in South Florida, and as a freelance designer. I still like to compete, and I’m still working on my jewelry. Over the last eight years, I have done more than I was expecting. I’ve grown and grown. Every day, I’m doing something different.

FR: What do you hope to do in the future?

RV: I want to continue to do different things. I hope to do more mentoring, to share my knowledge and talent with others, especially my Spanish community. I also want to continue as a freelance designer and possibly work on a couple of books. To learn more and to inspire others are my main goals.

FR: What advice do you have for floral designers just starting in the industry?

RV: Whatever you want to do, keep going for it. You can do it; it is possible. There will be challenges and frustrations, but keep going. Never stop. Never. Something great will come, and doors will open for you, if you keep trying, learning, creating and challenging yourself. If you fail today, try again—and again. That’s the key. I’ve been in this industry for 32 years, and there have been many ups and downs, so I am talking from experience. I’ve started over many times, even in my home country, and I’m still constantly changing. Change is out of most people’s comfort zones, but it’s part of growing and learning. Learn a new technique, and challenge yourself to do something outside the box, like entering a design competition. It’s not my model to stop learning and growing.

Floral arrangement