The Labor of Flowers – Federico Hewson

An article featuring Federico’s project is published in Hyperallergic. Read full article here: Wrapping Flowers in Paper…


Diary of the Labor of Flowers

Valentine’s Day



Drawing awareness to the fact that 70-80% of flowers imported to the US are from Colombia, produced in poor labor conditions – students Federico Hewson and Emily Adams passed out dozens of carnations with tags highlighting this fact, and also stating the cancer causing chemicals many of these women are exposed to. Know Your Flower was tied to roses and carnations given away in the West Village. This is not a pretty story although organizations are working to improve the condition of flower workers. The main one is Fairtrade – though, as of yet, not there is not one Fairtrade certified Colombian flower farm. This needs to change for the main US importing country for flowers – a country which also brands itself as The Land of Flowers! Using a highly visible day for flowers, Federico and Emily worked to illuminate some of these important flower facts.

International Women’s Day


The popular House of Yes in Bushwick, Brooklyn celebrated International Womens Day with a fabulous show preceded by an extensive lounge of organizations publicizing their work in the field of women and social justice – such as MADRE – helping women in conflict zones.

Assisted by fellow student Becky Neil, Federico Hewson gave out hundreds of flowers with the postcard Know Your Flower about the Mujeres de Colombia. Like Valentine’s Day, each flower given out was signed with the recipient’s name to visualize an what is usually an anonymous exchange. What’s the name of the individual flower worker?

Using this visible day in honor of women, Federico aimed to celebrate the many women workers – particularly in Colombia where in the flower industry about 70% of the laborers are women working for only $8 a day to bring the US most of its roses and carnations.

Mother’s Day


Working with a graphic designer, popular Manhattan chain Westside Market and a local Washington Square flower seller, Federico Hewson designed flower paper bringing Fairtrade awareness to both vendor and bouquet buyer on this popular floral day. Replacing their flower rolls with rolls of his special paper, the participating shops wrapped their flowers in this, spreading this information about Fairtrade and linking it to Federico’s subsequent teach-in at NYU, brought Fairtrade campaigner Tim Blunk of Fairtrade town Teaneck, New Jersey, to talk about the possibilities and present difficulties of sustainable trade – particularly for participating small businesses.

Through conversations with Fairtrade America and a global floral company, Federico Hewson hopes that the paper becomes a strategic symbol to draw attention to the labor of flowers, pointing to ways to improve conditions for flower workers everywhere.


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