Cut from same cloth

Pierre Frey's Origines collection (left) is inspired by Aboriginal art. The company's creative director Patrick Frey (below right) and his son Matthieu.
Pierre Frey's Origines collection (above) is inspired by Aboriginal art. The company's creative director Patrick Frey and his son Matthieu.PHOTOS: PIERRE FREY, ROMANEZ
Pierre Frey's Origines collection (left) is inspired by Aboriginal art. The company's creative director Patrick Frey (below right) and his son Matthieu.
Pierre Frey's Origines collection is inspired by Aboriginal art. The company's creative director Patrick Frey (above, right) and his son Matthieu.PHOTOS: PIERRE FREY, ROMANEZ

Family members in textile house Pierre Frey worked in other places before coming back to the business

Fashion trends come as quickly as they go every other season, but textile designer Patrick Frey hopes furniture and home accessories will never be part of that punishing cycle.

The creative director behind Pierre Frey, the venerable 80-year- old French textile house, disagrees that the home fabrics industry should mirror its fashion counterparts, even if both deal with textiles.

The 68-year-old, son of founder Pierre Frey, says: "We can't have the same philosophy as those in fashion. We do collections for home, where people don't change fabrics for a sofa like they do with a dress."

Even without chasing after the next big thing in the textiles market, Pierre Frey has made its name designing and making fabrics and wallpapers.

The company has more than 7,000 fabric designs from Pierre Frey and three other brands - Braquenie, Fadini Borghi and Boussac, which feature different styles. It has also branched out into making home accessories and furniture collections.

Most of its work is done at a weaving mill two hours from Paris, which it owns and where it makes its works either by hand or machine looms. It has 400 to 500 new designs every year.

Its creations can be found in the Louvre Museum in Paris and were featured by debut film-maker Emilie Cherpitel for her movie L'Echappee Belle (2015), in major scenes for items such as cushions and characters' outfits.

In Singapore, Pierre Frey and its brands, including the recently acquired Le Manach, are sold exclusively at Romanez, an accessories and fabric store in APS Building in Muthuraman Chetty Road.

Prices start at $120 a metre for a basic cotton print fabric.

Despite turning out new designs yearly, Mr Frey continues to be inspired by his travels, gleaning ideas "from everywhere".

For example, he came up with an idea to do a fabric designed with the natural shades and markings of Aboriginal art after seeing them in a gallery. This Origines collection was launched earlier this year.

He says: "I fell in love with theAboriginal people's drawings. I spent time to learn their values and what they did with their art. It took me two years to put out the collection."

While the affable Mr Frey is always in the limelight as the face of the brand, he is quick to point out that he works with three women in their 30s and 40s. This is deliberate as he wants different perspectives.

"Your way of life is not my way of life. In the studio, you can say we work with four pairs of eyes. Even if I make the final decision, it's interesting to be open to another way of seeing things," he explains. "I have to be careful the company isn't going to be old like me. It's important for Pierre Frey to stay fashionable."

He still heads the business, continuing his father's tradition of keeping it in the family.

In 1969, he was working in New York as a trainee at Brunschwig & Fils, a wholesaler of fabrics and furniture. He sent word back to Paris that he loved the American city and wanted to stay on, but as the only child, ended up being guilt-tripped by his father into returning home. He says with a laugh: "I thought it would be for a few months, but I'm still here."

His own sons - Pierre, Vincent and Matthieu - head various divisions in the company and are based in different cities. The younger Freys worked in other jobs before joining the family business.

Matthieu, 34, for example, is the brand's Singapore-based director for the Asia-Pacific region. He joined the family business four years ago after leaving a French alcohol company.

His father says: "I didn't force my children to join me. I wouldn't have asked. It's too risky. They had to come because it was their choice. You have to love it."

Another thing he is particular about is keeping Pierre Frey true to its roots. He is determined to keep the family business in France.

"We're a French brand, so we have to be in France. Even if we're open to the world, we will always have a French touch."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Cut from same cloth'. Print Edition | Subscribe