Maison Pierre Frey is one of the leading names in the home industry, having been around for decades now. Drawing inspiration across time and cultures, the brand is all about honoring its founding philosophy and its love of luxurious fabrics and designs, that have been passed down from father to son and now grandsons.
This week, we sat down with Pierre Frey, grandson of the founder of Maison Pierre Frey, and Communication Director for the brand to know more about their story and legacy, but also his favorite Parisian addresses and destinations around the world.
A conversation with Pierre Frey
GLH: Maison Pierre Frey is a family business that has been around for a while now. Tell us about its history.
Pierre Frey: Maison Pierre Frey, specialized in furniture and fabrics, was founded in 1935 by my grandfather, Monsieur Pierre Frey. 85 years later, this is still what the company is all about. My father, Patrick Frey, picked up the mantle in 1972, and has been the Artistic Director and President of the company ever since. As such, he was the man behind the expansion of our product range, adding wallpapers, furniture, rugs and carpets to our collection.
So, yes, Maison Pierre Frey is a family business, but over time we’ve grown and evolved. Today, my two brothers and I are part of the company as well, and we work with our father.
GLH: What’s the secret behind the company’s rise to being such an imposing presence in the home industry?
Pierre Frey: I wouldn’t say that we are imposing, but we certainly have a presence in the home industry because we have always remained very eclectic in terms of our products and style. So, of course, we have an appeal to a broader and more varied spectrum of projects and clients.
Maison Pierre Frey now operates under 5 brands, Pierre Frey, Le Manach, Braquennié, Boussac and Fadini Borghi, and we have 4 types of products, previously mentioned, that are offered across the brands. So, our eclecticism has always been an important tool for us to remain relevant in the industry.
GLH: And what would you say are your main sources of inspiration?
Pierre Frey: We draw inspiration from a wide range of sources, and the variations all become part of the identity of our brands.
For instance, both Le Manach and Braquennié have their roots in the 19th century, so we continue to come up with new designs and products that will complement their specific style.
For our more contemporary brands, like Pierre Frey and Boussac, we have a decidedly more modern approach.
Travelling, for instance, has always been a big source of inspiration for my father, ever since he joined the company some 50 years ago. While it started as being an inspiration for specific visual motifs for the wallpapers, now it’s turned into whole thematic endeavors altogether.
For example, some 12 years ago, he came across an aboriginal tribe in Australia and he came back to create a whole collection based on his interactions and observations.
GLH: Is he a passionate traveler?
Pierre Frey: He enjoys travelling as much as the next guy, but as far as I can remember from having accompanied him on his trips as a kid, most of his travelling was done with the purpose of drawing inspiration from them; whether he was visiting a castle or an antique shop or simply from the natural environments he saw. He would always come back saying “I saw this or I saw that in Egypt, we can use this for a design…”, he would take photographs of what he saw, he would draw them on paper, he would read books about countries and cultures.
GLH: So, whenever you’re planning a new collection, what’s the creative process like? Where do the ideas come from and how do you proceed thereafter?
Pierre Frey: Well, until very recently, any new idea always came from my father, from his mind, I’d say. Just like designers like Marc Jacobs or Galliano, or others, who might think “I love Russia, I came upon that expo on Russia in the 18th century, and we’re going to make a collection based on that…”. It’s the same for my father.
Recently though, it’s become more of a family discussion with the creative studio, by thinking about different themes that could be interesting, that could bring new elements, life, and colors to our collection. So yes, we choose together. It’s a true creative brainstorming, among the studio, him, my brothers and I, and we come to the final decisions together.
Our collection for January 2021 is completed at this point, and we are now focusing on our September 2021 collection, where we are thinking maybe we should make a wallpaper collection based on this, or a fabric collection based on that… Same for the furniture, and the rugs. Before this new way of doing things, it was solely my father’s decision. He’d be like “So, September 2022, we’re doing this!” and that was it. We only had to follow his lead. Now, given that the stakes are higher, there is more of a discourse on how to go about the creative process intelligently.
It’s never influenced by the trends of the time though. For instance, if we’ve been thinking a lot about Egypt, if we’re being exposed to a lot of elements that call back to Egypt, it doesn’t mean we will have an Egypt collection. It’s really about the process, and given how visionary my father is, given his talents, but by the time the collection actually comes out, which takes place about one and half years after the initial ideas start to flow, it is often in line with the worldly trend.
For example, we just premiered an Oriental collection last January, based on the treasures of the Orient, a decision that was taken some two years prior, and by the time the collection was out, we’ve seen that the world was following that trend as well, there were expos about the Orient and all that. All based on my father’s feel and vision at the time. That’s the talent of an artistic director, I suppose!
GLH: That’s exactly the case!
Pierre Frey: That’s his job, after all, and he is good at it!
GLH: How would you describe the latest Pierre Frey collection in a few words?
Pierre Frey: Our latest collection is just barely out of the oven, actually! It’s coming out a little late because of the Covid situation, normally we always release around the beginning of September. But we are very excited about this one because it will be the first collection featuring furniture designed by external designers, David and Nicolas. These two stars from Lebanon, came up with new furniture that are made at our workshops close to Paris, which is top-notch and is being met with acclaim, if I may say so myself. And in two weeks, our collection of wallpaper and fabrics will be released as well. And it’s going to be our first ever sustainable collection. Maison Pierre Frey has never had a truly sustainable collection before, although we did try to be ecologically conscious. This time, however, we had a whole strategy in place, based on a proper thought process and, above all, a wish to premiere a collection that was made in France, without any added coloring and with locally-sourced materials; everything is French. The collection is named “Natecru Durable”, and it comes out in two weeks.
Then we also have a new collection inspired by the work of an artist that has always been a muse to us, Liz Roache, an American artist from Boston, whose work is focused on color and geometrical forms. And our new collection of wallpaper, rugs and sheets, that’s coming out in two weeks, and is called “Optimism”, a gorgeous and strong collection. We also have a new collection of wall covering. It is similar to wallpaper, but it’s mostly exotic fabrics that are glued together, and it is about texture, rather than colors or motifs. So they look like bamboo, wool, cotton…
GLH: Speaking of which, how do you select the artists with whom you want to collaborate?
Pierre Frey: We meet up with them, really. I take care of that aspect of the process most of the time. I get everyone together, and then I meet up with the artists and proceed to sieve through the bunch. Sometimes, there are exhibitions that we come across, but most of the time, it’s just meeting with them. For instance, there was an artist whose workshop was just next to our showroom in Boston, and when we went there two years ago, we saw his work through his showcase, and we just fell in love with it, so we got inside and we talked to him.
GLH: Is there a particular motif/design or a specific collection that you hold close to your heart?
Pierre Frey: Well, there’s the collection by David/Nicolas, the VERSO collection, mostly because I truly believe in the history and legitimacy of that department of Pierre Frey. My great-grandfather, René Prou, who worked from the ‘30s to the ‘50s was a true visionary and he was our inspiration for this particular collection. What David and Nicolas did with the new collection…I find very elegant, with a history, and I really like it.
GLH: Any hotel in the world that you particularly like?
Pierre Frey: Ah, there is indeed one hotel that I really love, and which I’ve not been able to visit in a long time, because I used to go there quite often when I lived in New York for a couple of years. It’s the Bowery Hotel. It is simply extraordinary; those who know, know why it is that amazing. It’s not an old hotel, maybe 20 years old or something. I used to live next to it when I was in New York and would always go there for drinks, and now, whenever I’m not in Paris, I always go there. It’s a hotel that’s quite rustic but also very elegant and that has a great atmosphere; the decor takes a bit from Louis XIII design, wood decor, and rugs overlaid on each other. It’s got a bit of an old vibe to it, but still trendy and it’s got personality; it’ll never go out of fashion really.
Now, it’s far from being Hotel Costes, but you can still feel the life force of it, like the old sofas that squeak among other things. It’s more of a winter hotel, it’s dark, but it’s also got a pleasant garden inside for the summer.
GLH: Any addresses in Paris that you feel something special for, or that you think more people should know?
Pierre Frey: I love La Place de Furstenberg, in Paris, at Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Also the Palais Royale, because of its amazing history and because it’s a big park, just next to our office and my house. I’ve been going there for 20 years, and now I go there with my kids. So these are the two places in Paris that I love.
There’s also this small shop that I really enjoy. It’s a men’s clothing shop, very small and intimate, called Gabriele, which is found at Rue du Mont Thabor, just behind the Hotel Costes. So, yes, definitely check out Gabriele, it has a great collection of clothes for men.
And then this is special. There’s this Italian woman by the name of Veronica Marucchi who lives at Saint-Roch, in Paris, who mostly does women’s hats, but she also makes my hats, and well, she makes amazing hats!