Known for the decadence and artistry of its fabrics and wallpapers, Pierre Frey embodies French tradition and Parisian luxury at its finest. As a family business passed down generation to generation, its philosophy and French way of life has largely remained the same since its founding in 1935, though its reach has expanded all over the world.
A firm believer in following one’s heart instead of trends, president and design icon Patrick Frey, third-generation heir to the brand, takes inspiration from all over the world and even history itself when it comes to design. This philosophy has resulted in an immensely vast collection, with a story to share behind each design – be it from a child’s scribbled drawing or a trip to an Aboriginal art museum in Melbourne.
We chat with Patrick Frey, who shares his candid take on their business philosophy and how they are adapting to an evolving industry.
How have design trends evolved over the last decade?
These days, things are more playful, more colourful and amusing. At the same time, we also see people becoming more adventurous and willing to take risks with their choice of wall covering designs, so there’s a lot of mixing and matching of styles, like pairing something contemporary with old furniture, for example. Thanks to social media platforms like Instagram, people are also sharing pictures of their home more than ever. The home has become a talking point, and there are more gatherings happening in friends’ homes than outside, so people are more willing to invest in making their home comfortable and beautiful.
As the creative mind behind every collection, how do you sustain your creativity?
You cannot create if you stay in your office and in your city all the time. The only way to create is to get out, to travel, to get inspiration. It can come from anywhere: on the street, from nature, from architecture. The thing is, you have to keep your eyes open for it. A lot of people look, but very few people see – just as a lot of people listen, but they don’t hear. That’s why I love to travel. I get ideas even on the plane, on the train, and then come back to the studio and work with the team to create a new collection. I also find plenty of ideas from browsing through the company’s archives. We have over 25,000 documents, and sometimes we take inspiration from the stories they contain. For example, we were able to recreate Marie Antoinette’s bedroom for Versailles because of the letters she wrote to her Austrian mother at the time, describing the colours of her bedroom. We love working on classic things like that.
Can you tell us more about working with young designers?
We love working with young designers and artists. They help us design both our capsule collections and limited edition collections. One of the designers we worked with is India Mahdavi, the Iranian-French architect and designer who is the queen of colours. Working with artists of different cultures helps us develop our heritage collections too.
What are your views of trends in home decorating?
While we believe in trends, we don’t really follow them. Trends are something more prevalent in fashion. In our industry, time moves more slowly – we have two, three years to do a collection – and so we have time to create beautiful things, and we try to do it well. We believe in creating something out of love it’s sellable. However, business philosophy-wise, sustainability is a big thing. When we talk to clients, they want eco-friendly fabric, they want to see the carbon footprint of our production process. In keeping our business focused on environmental sustainability, we’re following what the world needs. It’s not really a trend, but more of a philosophy or direction.
Do you see yourself being inspired by Singapore’s culture to create a collection?
Well, we don’t really have specific country-based collections. We don’t have a Paris or New York collection, for example. But if it’s a tropical collection based on Asian influences and different styles from this region, then yes, with pleasure. We may do two or three designs inspired by Singapore. Just the other day I was taking photos of flowers in Botanic Gardens, and came up with a fabric with orchids and tropical greenery.
What are some key challenges in introducing Pierre Frey to homeowners in Asia and around the world?
We’ve been in Asia for nearly 25 years, so we’ve faced many different challenges. One of the main ones is that we don’t want to be mass market – we need to retain our uniqueness. It’s also always a bit risky when you’re a French brand, with a French spirit, and you’re entering a market with a different culture. Our collections are the same all over the world, so we don’t try to change ourselves to cater to a specific market. It helps that we have clients who understand our philosophy.
Social media has also helped us to reach out to different markets. If you visit our Instagram feed and see something you like, you can easily order it. That was impossible 10 years ago. Today people all over the world can follow us, and this makes a big difference in the long term.