How to honor a heritage
You seem to have a skill for purchasing important heritage companies in need of resuscitation and bringing them back to a place of relevance again. We’ve seen this with Braquenié, Boussac, Fadini-Borghi, and of course most recently with Le Manach. What have you learned about purchasing these maisons and incorporating them successfully under the Pierre Frey umbrella?
At the Maison Pierre Frey we try to expand our wings, to go from modern to classic. Having this range of brands under the same roof gives designers the opportunity to find the product they need.
Like in a restaurant, for instance, the menu has meat and fish all prepared by the same chef. The fish prepared in one restaurant will not be the same as in another. The same is true in fashion. Chanel and Dior are both making dresses, but not in the same style. My job is to be very wide and cover the tastes of the enormous market, but always with the same eye. Each chef has to keep his own identity to make that happen.
Pierre Frey acquired Le Manach in 2014. Tell us about your affinity for this incredible French heritage house which was founded in 1829 and had been run by the same family for five generations prior to your purchase.
In my family, decorative arts and textiles have always been extremely important. When discussing the very best, I had always heard two names: Braquenié and Le Manach. They were the two top French textile houses – one very classic and the other a little more eclectic and daring. Together they comprised the most beautiful wovens, hand-loomed fabrics, prints and carpets made in France.
Le Manach was in the same family for five generations. I never imagined that one day they could be part of the Maison Pierre Frey. But when it was time for them to sell, I believe they came to us because they saw how well we took care of the Braquenié name when we acquired them years before.
Although Pierre Frey is an established brand for over 85 years, our legacy is still quite young. With Braquenié and Le Manach came an extraordinary history and archives. The fact that we could continue to produce these treasured textiles brought us the respect of clientele that are used to working at the very top of the design world. We now belong to the French patrimony, and that is thanks in large part to Braquenié and Le Manach.
I never imagined that one day they could be part of the Maison Pierre Frey.
Le Manach arrived on your doorstep with over 4,000 historical textile documents, the oldest of which dates back to the 16th century. What were some of your favorite discoveries when you dove into the archives?
Actually, I don’t have a favorite. What I discovered by chance when diving into the archives is that there is a connection to my family after all. My grandfather Rene Prou, who was a designer in the 19th and early 20th century before the start of Pierre Frey, commissioned Le Manach to create some of his fabric designs. In fact we found he used this fabric in his décor on the dining room chairs of the Waldorf Astoria.
It’s been nearly seven years since you purchased Le Manach. How has it evolved under Pierre Frey leadership?
Often when one company buys another they don’t keep the name, or they mix it with something else, and the identity is lost. With Le Manach we realized it was important to preserve the identity. When you have a special piece of jewelry like that you don’t mix it with other jewelry. Le Manach is loved because it is a small and very special collection and we want to preserve that.
That said, I do spend time creating new designs but always with a respect to the spirit of the brand. I always want to maintain the quality that earned Le Manach the reputation for perfection. I consider it my job to respect the brand, preserve what has been done before, and continue the legacy. I will add new colors or change the scale of the designs or add wallpapers to keep it alive. With Pierre Frey, I am the creator and I freely do what I love. With Braquenié and Le Manach, they were here before me and will be after me. I try to respect the brand and keep it independent.
Last question: first place you’ll travel when restrictions are lifted?
New York and Los Angeles.
Its true! I hope in the fall when we are finally open I will travel there.