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Art Design 5 Minutes With... Patrick Frey

5 Minutes With... Patrick Frey

Image: courtesy of Pierre Frey
By Hong Xinying
By Hong Xinying
December 04, 2017
Patrick Frey, chairman and creative director of family-owned French fabric upholstery company Pierre Frey, discusses the beauty of natural fibres and the brand’s storied textile archives.

When we meet Patrick Frey in Singapore, we find him in his element—surrounded by foliage at restaurant-bar Don Ho and merrily discussing the newest Pierre Frey collections.

The chairman and creative director of the French upholstery purveyor picked the location for its tropical decor—most notably, the striking Papagayo wallpaper from the brand’s Jungle collection, which is paired with cushions in matching botanical prints. Established in 1935 by Patrick’s father Pierre, the company continues to be run by the family.

At the helm today is Patrick, who is assisted by his three sons. Under his charge, Pierre Frey has also acquired the heritage houses of Braquenié, Fadini Borghi and Boussac, significantly expanding its fabric archives. As we speak to the creative director about fabric trends and the company archives, we discover that his enthusiasm for life and textile design is almost infectious— and for him, the two are intertwined.

“Design inspiration is all about opening your eyes to the beauty of the world and marvelling at what is happening around you,” he says. “There are so many people who look, but there are few who truly see.”

Image: courtesy of Pierre Frey
Fabric from the Jungle Collection. Image: Courtesy of Pierre Frey

What are some of your considerations when designing a new collection?
Patrick Frey (PF)
We don’t work with trends—we do what we like to create something new and interesting for the market. We choose a beautiful linen or wool fabric and have it in up to 30 colours, and these colours always match the designs we’ve selected. While it’s up to the design director—in this case, me—to decide on the concept for the collection, we also need to be open to ideas from designers from all over the world. So we work with new talent to complement the heritage of Pierre Frey. The design on the wall [Papagayo], for instance, was created in collaboration with an illustrator for a collection inspired by Central America.

Image: courtesy of Pierre Frey
Image: Courtesy of Pierre Frey

What are some of the biggest lifestyle changes that now shape the way we shop for our homes?
PF Nowadays, people travel more, dine at stylish restaurants and look everywhere for decor inspiration. They see so many beautiful interiors and want to do the same with their home—they want to change the decor constantly. When they move, they don’t necessarily bring their furniture with them. It’s a new concept of living that’s observed all over the world. However, decor is still not as time-sensitive as fashion. You can keep your decor for three to four years; after that, you change it because you want to buy something different.

Image: courtesy of Pierre Frey
Image: Courtesy of Pierre Frey

How have significant technical developments in the industry shaped Pierre Frey’s collections?
PF There have been many technical innovations in the past two to three decades that have changed the furniture and fabric industries. The material mix, for instance, is dependent on fire regulations. In places like restaurants and hotels, you are not allowed to use only natural fibres that are easily flammable—they have to be mixed with other materials. These new fabrics can be washed without their colours fading. However, natural fibres such as wool, cotton and linen are beautiful and still very important to the industry. It’s always a dream to work with natural materials—and there are people who prefer these over modern fibres that use acrylic. So we still use a lot of natural fibres for our fabrics.

Image: courtesy of Pierre Frey
Fabric from the India Madhavi collection. Image: Courtesy of Pierre Frey

Looking back, what are the qualities that have contributed to the brand’s longevity?
PF At the core of Pierre Frey is the fact that it’s a family business, it is based in Paris and it’s French. It is vital to keep Pierre Frey as French as we can. What does it mean to be French? Perhaps it boils down to colour and design—that’s why our fabric archives are important and we try to use them exclusively for Pierre Frey. This classic part of our collections differentiates us from other brands. As long as we embrace our uniqueness, the company can live on.

Image: courtesy of Pierre Frey
Image: Courtesy of Pierre Frey

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