This week, Sabine and I visited Pierre Frey for a presentation honoring the family-owned company’s 75th anniversary.
“Exhibition 1935-1955: Inspiration & Realism of Fabrics” celebrates the whimsy of Pierre Frey’s early years and brings to New York a curated collection of textiles, drawings, and paintings usually held in their Parisian archives. The beautiful patterns are lively, and feel as fresh now as ever.
Author, textile historian, and Pierre Frey archivist Sophie Rouart was on hand to present the history and inspiration as she highlighted the designs featured in the exhibit.
The company began in 1935 with founder Pierre Frey, partner Jean Chatanay, and only 2 looms, though he bought out Chatanay the following year. During the WWII period, Pierre was classified as an artisan/artist and was granted special permission to continue buying and selling fabrics. Though the fabrics are usually cotton, linen, or wool, the company developed a plastic-cotton to make use of the only materials that were available at the time. Post-war, the company began exporting to the US, UK, and other countries in continental Europe. Pierre Frey was not a designer, but was the “eye,” identifying talent, and the designers he worked with were the “hands.” Freelance designers such as Chatanay, Geneviève Prou (who charmed Pierre with her drawings and self—she became his wife, and mother of current president Patrick Frey), Janine Janet, Irène Rohr, and Jean-Denis Malclès lent their considerable talent in creating dozens of patterns that fell into four themes: Between Sea and Sky, Nature, Decorative Fantasies, and Myths and Reveries.
Between Sea and Sky: heaven and sea motifs, inspired partially by the rising popularity of beach vacations.
Nature: the surrounding flora and fauna. One pattern in the archive, Fouillis de Fleur, was turned into a dress worn by Brigitte Bardot.
Decorative Fantasies: the alternative to figurative designs.
Myths and Reveries: influenced by 1940s surrealism, these patterns were fanciful and looked to literature and mythology to transcend reality. See the unicorns on the right?
Two more I loved:
close-up detail with the designer's notes in pencil (gouache on paper)
There are many more wonderful examples, so if you are going to be in New York, I encourage you to go see the whole collection in person. The exhibit is open to the public at their showroom in the Decoration & Design Building and runs through July 30.