Frederique van der Wal has had an exceptional career in several fields. As a model, she appeared on the cover of Vogue and Cosmopolitan – to name only a few publications — beyond winning John Casablancas’ Look Of The Year contest in 1985. As an actress, she has appeared in films directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, James Toback and Woody Allen. As a TV host and producer, she has hosted programs on A&E, The Discovery Channel, FYI and TLC. As an entrepreneur, she has been a guest lecturer at Harvard University and received the Marie Claire Entreprenuer Of The Year Award in 2011.
Frederique’s Choice, the company launched by Frederique in 2008, is a prominent lifestyle e-commerce and content brand. The brand is centered around flowers, and was somewhat inspired by The Invisible Journey, a 2005 Discovery Channel series that she had developed, hosted and produced. Initially Frederique’s Choice products were only available in Europe, but 2015 brought upon its United States launch. An opening party was held several weeks ago at the McKittrick Hotel with celebrities Griffin Dunne, Amy Sacco, Stuart Parr and Allison Sarofim serving as hosts.
I had the privilege of having questions answered by Frederique. She not only went into depth about Frederique’s Choice – which uniquely offers subscriptions on bouquets — but her transition from model and actress to entrepreneur. For more information on her company, you can visit www.frederiqueschoice.com, while Frederique’s personal website is www.frederique.com.
Is there an accomplishment in your professional career that you’re most proud of?
Frederique van der Val: There definitely have been a few, but the launch of my lifestyle and flower brand, Frederique’s Choice, has been the ultimate. To take something that is my passion — and that has been for so much of my life — being able to use my Dutch roots and my career in fashion, and being able to turn all that into my job has been a really wonderful journey. It has brought a lot of joy into my life. It has been successful in Europe for several years now, and this year we were finally able to bring it to the U.S., which has been another amazing experience.
When was it in your career that you decided that you were going to transition from primarily being a model to mostly being an entrepreneur and producer?
F: Being a model was never something I expected to do for my whole life. When I began my modeling career at 18, I always knew that I wanted to do more, and I dreamed of starting my own business. First I dabbled in some licensing deals, but when a flower was named for me in Holland in 2005 [officially named the “Frederique’s Choice Lily”], it opened up a whole new way of thinking for me. That was when I was inspired to produce and host a TV show, The Invisible Journey, about the journey a flower takes from bulb to vase. From there the seed was planted, and it sparked the desire to create things, produce, build a business, to really bloom.
Is acting something you hope to do more of in the future?
F: Acting isn’t really my thing; I’m better as myself. I have ventured into some movies, which was fun — but I like being me. With TV shows, I am better to keep it as close to myself as possible, as I did in TV shows like The Invisible Journey and now my new show Homegrown Makeover. That is the show I’ve taped for FYI Network, where I use flowers and plants to help transform homes. It will start airing in January of next year.
Can you tell us more about the new TV show?
F: Yes, it’s very exciting! Carter Oosterhouse is in it with me—he’s wonderful to work with, and he really understands the power of bringing the outdoors into the home. Especially with apartments and smaller homes, which we feature a lot on the show, we look at how important it is to have flowers and greenery. They are full makeovers, but we take them up another level with flowers and plants. It changes not only the look of a home, but the feel and smell and even the air—decorating with flowers and plants brings in oxygen and detoxifies and on top of all that lifts your mood!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about modeling?
F: That the girls are airheads—far from it! Of course there are a few, but these days you need to be savvy to survive in any industry, especially one that’s so fleeting. Also, there is a time limit to a career. Just looks don’t do it anymore. We also see wonderful examples of models who make a difference. More and more, you see successful crossovers into acting and businesses.
Where did the idea from Frederique’s Choice come from?
F: In 2005, when Holland named a lily in my honor, I was brought into the greenhouse where all these breeds of lilies were shown. It takes 10 years to create one of these amazing blooms! That brought on the idea of following the amazing journey of how flowers end up in a vase. While doing the TV show, it suddenly became clear to me to combine my love for flowers, my career in fashion and my Dutch heritage into a lifestyle brand for flowers. From the beginning, I thought about the great packaging and stunning bouquets that I could put together. I have had the dream to tell the story in the U.S. of how wonderful it is to live with flowers. I want to make “Life in full bloom” mean what it does to me—flowers should be an everyday thing, not just for occasions; having them changes peoples’ moods and homes. It has been such an exciting and rewarding journey.
So you were always interested in flowers?
F: Yes, always. I can’t emphasize enough how important flowers are in Holland. Everywhere, there are bouquets, gardens, greenery. So many of my memories from my childhood are related to flowers; they have been a consistent theme throughout my entire life. Also, the absence of flowers or plants is something that affects me strongly — if I walk into a room and there are none there, I feel like that space is not alive.
Do you have a favorite flower? Or even a favorite product available from the Frederique’s Choice line?
F: Lilies may hold a special place in my heart simply because of the Frederique’s Choice Lily, but I can’t name one flower as a favorite. It changes all the time depending on the season, depending on what I’m working with. I just used delphiniums for the launch of Frederique’s Choice U.S. We created a beautiful corridor completely covered in blue and lavender delphiniums. Stunning! I love roses, peonies, wisteria; wisteria grows over the pergola at my farmhouse in Upstate New York. I have two favorite products from Frederique’s Choice. First, our brand’s mood bouquet collection. It’s so important to me to promote the wellness benefits that flowers provide, and with the mood bouquet collections, it’s very simply communicated. And then the horoscope bouquet collection, it’s been such a delight to go through the horoscope and match up each sign with colors and arrangements. Each horoscope bouquet tells a really great story, so I’m very excited by that.
Frederique’s Choice is an e-commerce-based company. When did you first launch online?
F: We have always been e-commerce-based, since we started in 2008 in Holland. I feel there is a lot of opportunity with what’s offered online. We are telling a story about how to enhance your life, to create a lifestyle. We promote fresh, high-quality, closely sourced, sustainable products with great packaging; there is more of an artisanal feel to the bouquets that I design. And that’s what I’ve been working toward with Frederique’s Choice since the very beginning.
I’ve read that you split time between homes in New York City, Upstate New York and Amsterdam. What does Upstate New York offer that New York City does not?
F: My home in Upstate New York is just an hour-and-a-half drive from Manhattan, and yet it feels like a world apart. I really feel that I’m in nature there. My home, an 18th-century Dutch farmhouse, helps me feel connected to my homeland, too. I bought it 15 years ago, and it’s been such a wonderful place to escape the craziness of the city. My daughter loves it, too. I wanted a place where she could run with her friends in the grass with no shoes away from the cement jungle. There’s something called “biophilia,” it’s our instinctual attraction toward nature. I am quite drawn to my home and property in Upstate New York because it allows me to just be in nature. It has helped me stay in New York City all these years.
When was the first time you traveled to New York City? Coming from the Netherlands, what was most surprising about the trip?
F: When I was 18, I came here to start my modeling career after I had won a modeling contest in Holland. What was most surprising to me was the realization that flowers did not play such an important role in everyone’s lives here as they do where I grew up. That was one of my first impressions, so even then I was thinking about flowers and plants and how to surround myself with them. I would buy flowers from the corner market to bring into my tiny apartment. It’s funny how life is — now, so many years later, I find myself doing that what I missed so much in my early days in New York City.
Another thing I found astonishing, by the way, were the portions of food served. I thought someone was playing a joke on me, until I realized it was normal to have 10 inches of cheese on your sandwich!
When you are not occupied with work, how do you prefer to spend your time?
F: I love to spend time at my farmhouse just hanging out with friends and family. I can be found there sharing a laugh, enjoying a glass of wine. And gardening — or, really, puttering around the garden — is my favorite pastime. When I’m watching my daughter and her friends running around, life feels good. I love playing tennis, and if I can, I take a yoga class twice a week; I’m a huge fan of yoga! I also love riding my bicycle around downtown — it’s a Dutch mint green bike that I get tons of compliments on.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?
F: I just had my launch at Gallow Green on top of the McKittrick Hotel, which is a fabulous place to have a drink or a bite. My classic favorite is Indochine. I also love Il Buco, Bell Book & Candle, Freemans, and now that the weather is getting colder, the Lobby Bar at The Bowery Hotel for the fireplace.
Finally, Frederique, any last words for the kids?
F: Take chances, be humble, give back, be passionate about what you do and laugh a lot!
-by Darren Paltrowitz