Founded in 1935, the French textile company Pierre Frey is internationally renowned for its boundary-pushing designs that are created into beautiful made-to-measure rugs, wallpaper and fabrics. We sat down with Pierre’s son, Patrick Frey, to talk about the past, present and future of this quintessentially French brand.
The company has been part of the famous Comité Colbert since 1976, an association that includes 81 luxury French brands. What does the term savoir-faire mean at Pierre Frey?
Savoir-faire is the culmination of several things — skilled hands and eyes working together, beautiful materials made from the best quality, natural fibers and stunning, well-thought-out designs.
Patrick Frey in the studio in Paris © Dorothée Demey
You have headed Pierre Frey since 1969, more recently accompanied by your three sons. How do you work together?
Our working relationship has and continues to be effective because everyone has their own domain. Pierre manages all communications, Vincent is the Director-General and Matthieu is based in Singapore and handles the Asian market. I’m on the creative side. We are all very complimentary; there’s no rivalry between us — we make all the decisions together.
Your father, Pierre Frey, founded the brand back in 1935. What part of the fabric printing process captured his eye? Did you always share the same approach?
When my father started the company, he particularly liked design and teaming up with different artists. He was very avant-garde and always worked outside of the box. I take after him in this way, and when I succeeded the company, I was able to use this passion and envisage it on a larger scale. Between us, the collections offer a varied illustration of design over several centuries.
Pierre Frey with his son, Patrick, and his grandchildren (L-R) Matthieu, Piere & Vincent © Antoine Gyori
Pierre Frey describes itself as “typically French.” How does this translate into the designs?
As a French person myself, this is tricky to explain! All I know is that our foreign clients always say that our fabrics — the colors, designs and scale — are “so French!” Two of the heritage brands that we bought, Braquenié and Le Manach, beautifully illustrate the French culture of their period. I am so proud to have been able to take over these two great historical houses.
“Sheherazade” collection © Jon Day
Pierre Frey’s archives are both rich and extensive. What does it bring to the company and its processes?
Two main things: memory and legitimacy. Jean-Louis Dumas (Editor’s note: chairman of the Hermès group) used to say “there is no such thing as amnesia.” We start with the past and work towards the future. While our archives are mainly French, and they don’t all necessarily date back to the 18th century, they do cover every year across the centuries. All of our designs have been created from the archives. They are the foundation of everything and are a phenomenal working base for us!
Lapérouse Restaurant in Paris © Matthieu Salvaing
Do you have a favorite period in terms of fabrics?
I love the 18th century for the richness and finesse of the designs, but at the other end of the spectrum, contemporary art also makes for very inspiring textiles. Creating strong patterns on beautiful materials using the latest weaving techniques looks wonderful, and this is an aesthetic that we channel a lot in modern projects.
I don’t have a single favorite period — a good thing, otherwise the collections wouldn’t be as varied. I think that my best work is done on that love-at-first-sight impulse. I wouldn’t change it!