If you ask most any well educated designer who their favorite French fabric lines are, the name Pierre Frey will always be in the mix. Pierre Frey is a family owned and privately held French luxury design house founded in 1935. Since its inception, the company has grown now to include three other brands: Pierre Frey, Boussac, Braquenie, and Fadini Borghi. When I was in Paris with Design Trust, we had the pleasure of visiting the Frey Headquarters and toured their offices, archives and two of their homes. Our host for the day was none other than Pierre Frey, grandson of the founder, his father Patrick Frey, President and Creative Director of the Company and his two brothers, Matthieu and Vincent. Our day began with a visit to the corporate office and archives then culminated with a tour of Pierre Frey's apartment ended with a dinner in Vincent Frey's apartment. I can't wait to share my visit to the archives, but lets first look at some current Pierre Frey Fabrics that I'm dying to use in some projects.
I had the good fortune of seeing this room at the Architectural Digest Show House while in Paris. This room utilized two Pierre Frey Fabrics.
Pierre Frey home furnishing fabrics consists of contemporary materials with stylized patterns, chic, sophisticated and elegant.
Oberkampf a black and white antique document inspired fabric,
is one of my favorite from the Braquenie Collection.
Braquenie collection fabrics are of tradition and refinement. The collection includes Toiles de Jouy, printed calico, antique document inspired fabrics all in cottons.
Fadini Borghi Collection consists of Jacquard weaves, embroidery, sheers, multi-colour velvets and silks, Italian luxury, precious weaving, dramatic, sumptuousness, virtuosity, Baroque, grand prestige, sophistication.
Boussac Collection consists of Fun prints, cheerful patterns, geometrical
drawings, in modern youthful patterns.
"Pierre Frey is unrivalled in its ability to replicate elaborately the antique surface of a painting hidden in the depths of a château, such as the “Petit Parc” fabric, to reinvent a toile de Jouy fabric into “Voyage en Chine” or place an Empire palmette motif, updated to the 1940s, on satin. This is an art that imitates life to inspire and delight."
~ Quote from Pierre Frey Website
The four collections reveal the range of offerings from Pierre Frey and its other three brands. It is obvious which of the collections are inspired by the archives isn't it? Let's take a look at the archives now.
My favorite part of the day spent with the Frey Family was getting a tour of the extensive antique archival textile collection Patrick Frey has spent years building. Patrick Frey is passionate about preserving the past and has built a library with over 30,000 textile designs, carpets samples and fabrics, some dating back as far at the 16th century. He uses fabrics from his archives as inspiration for many of the new fabric collections released each year. The archives are so inspiring, and the Frey Family is very generous in sharing it with others, who yearn to study the collection. I would love to revisit Paris one day with the soul intent of spending time at Pierre Frey to study the collection of antique textiles.
Archivist, Sophie Ruart, is the curator of the Pierre Frey archives. Adorned in white cotton gloves, Sophie wowed us with her knowledge of the beautiful silks, embroideries, toiles in the vast collection of antique textiles. It's easy to see where the Pierre Frey Brand draws inspiration when you view the collection. Vibrant fabrics to soft, elegant silks, all of which are synonymous with the Frey brand, are in abundance. Many times the inspiration for new fabrics come directly from the archival specimens, while other times the antique fabric designs are adapted to appeal to modern tastes in pattern and color. There are many original Pierre Frey fabrics stored in the archives as well. The rest of the inventory came from auctions. It was interesting to hear Sophie talk about what she looks for at auctions, compared to what Patrick Frey is scouting out. The curator looks for rare fabrics to complete the collection while the businessman looks for fabrics to reproduced for new collections. My guess is a combination of Sophie and Patrick's desires at auction is what has produced such an interestingly beautiful and well rounded collection.
The archival room isn't enormous in size but has ample storage with flat drawer cabinets surrounding the walls. The flat drawers hold many layers of fabrics separated by archival tissue paper. Each specimen is preserved and catalogued by pattern, fabric content and age. The archives are used by the company's internal designers as well as special clients and projects which demanding custom fabric design.
On one end of the room is a collection of antique fabric books, with page after page of textile samples, in surprisingly good shape considering the age of the books.
Sophie said no one knows what these books were for, but one theory is that the books belonged to an upholsterer, who in that time, would use them for clients to choose fabrics for bedding, upholstery and other furnishings .
There were several shelves filled with rare antique fabric books, but Sophie chose
this one to share with us.
The surface of the brown leather book was aged leather with brass edges and leather straps that fastened around the book to secure its closure. Sophie removed the book from the shelf and began to open it. I could feel everyone in the room hold their breath and tense up, as she unbuckled the book. This was one of the oldest books in the collection. The worn exterior of the book did not hint at the beauty we would experience once the book was open.
The fabrics were either small strips or scraps. Sophie said these were too small to show the full pattern repeat, making it difficult to reproduce the exact pattern, but the book serves as an marvelous example of color and design inspiration.
Larger pieces of fabrics were stored in flat drawers and layered between
archival tissue paper.
Pierre Frey is a master at replicating historic materials. Sophie showed us fabrics reproduced for Marie Antoinette's bedroom in Petit Trianon Palace at Versailles. The original fabric was printed with a wooden block, but the reproduction fabric utilized modern techniques with dots incorporated to make it look as though it had been printed like the original. The result was a fabric that looked much like the 19th-century fabric, but was much wider than the original hand blocked fabric. That attention to detail is what sets Pierre Frey apart from others in the industry.
Pierre Frey's muted colors, beautiful toiles and embroidered flowers with small motifs are what draw many designers to this beautiful line of fabrics and wallpapers.
Sophie opened a box which held this beautiful chinoiserie jacket in medium blue from the 1760's. The embroidery was exquisite.
There were remnants of beautiful embroideries of all types, covered buttons and rare intricate stitches.
My favorite part of our visit to the archives was seeing this diorama created for Napoleon III. This scale rendering provides a visual of every element of the interior design for the "wagon de l’empereur" or train car for the Emperor.
This up close view shows the design details planned for the walls, rugs and tapestries.
It was a train car fit for a king. The details were amazing.
Every inch was perfectly hand painted. Here is a close up of the rug details.
The diorama was accompanied by the original paperwork for the order.
Samples of the fabrics for each items is included on a concept board.
Each designs drawn and painted in explicit detail.
It's really incredible that an individual could own this priceless treasure. It isn't often one gets an unclose view of such a relic. Can you imagine designing something and presenting to the Emperior?
It was a glorious visit. I fell totally and completely in love at Pierre Frey! I hope you enjoyed seeing a little glimpse of my visit. Thank You to the Frey Family for sharing your beautiful treasures with so many!
Pierre Frey Fabrics are available through Lisa Mende Design