Featured Photo: “The Middle Kingdom”
Produced for the Western market at the end of the 19th century
The Chinese Collection Braquenié & Châle
Courtesy of Pierre Frey
Article by Roxana Florina Popa
Imaginative exoticism overflows from ancient Asian fabrics revealed by Pierre Frey at the Chelsea Design Centre in London. Protected with care in fine paper, unfolded with white gloves and exposed to the present circle of textile lovers, they have been brought from Paris by Sophie Rouart, Pierre Frey’s curator and archivist. The renowned French textile house is a global player and has been for years acquiring valuable textile archives. In its creative approach, the fabric editor masters the harmony and the artistry of combining more than three colours and patterns. A skill that naturally brings Pierre Frey very close to intricate, multifarious and storytelling fabrics from India, China, Indonesia and Japan .
At the unique moment of exposing the treasure pieces, Pierre Frey’s showroom brims over with home light, warmth and colourful patterns. Magic is in the air. Visitors’ imagination is captured by the sophisticated textile painting techniques of Indonesian women, sometimes taking even more than 60 days to create amazing precious pieces. They arrived from Central Asia to Europe on the Silk Road, beginning with the 3rd century BC and later, by sea on the route opened by Marco Polo in 1498.
The fascinated audience tastes the once-upon-a-time excitement of an effervescent trade where merchants started commissioning the production of Asian fabrics for the Western market. They even had them manufactured there based on their own selective reinterpretation of oriental patterning.
Indian Productions for the European Market
The Eastern Style has had an enduring influence on the creation of new designs for contemporary interiors in the West. According to Sophie Rouart, the European textiles started being inspired by oriental patterns beginning with the Ottoman velvet during the Renaissance. “I find captivating the interconnections between Europe and Asia because they stimulated the creativity of designers on each side of the planet. The notion of globalisation is not new.”
On Pierre Frey’s manner of reworking the qualities of Asian textiles, Mrs Rouart remarks “Pierre Frey is an eclectic house that functions by impulse. There is no rule: it could be a pattern, a technique or simply the desire to work on a certain theme“.
Conservative as a museum in preserving its documents, Pierre Frey is flexible in applying its living heritage for elaborating new creations. Sometimes, the reproduction is complete. Sometimes, the techniques, the colours, the composition are changed. “The aim is to recapture these fragments of history and give them a second life.”
Pierre Frey produced a carpet for the French Embassy in China whose design is an adaptation of a piece of Chinese painted silk from the 18th century.
“A collection is many times born out of an encounter with a person, object or story. It crystallises the emotion of this experience. In 2010, Patrick Frey and his team met somebody who travels on foot in South-East Asia in order to find almost forgotten local populations. In his peregrinations, this passionate walker brings textiles which are witnesses of the ancient art of ethnicities living at the end of the world. This is how we discovered the people Miao who live in China in the province Guizhou out of our sight.”
The collections Maoming and Guizhou are the latest launched in January 2017. They are an invitation to discover the mysterious force of a textile art based on the indigo work and the polichromy of embroideries. Ikats, batiks, folded textiles, embroideries with geometric patterns applied to colourful, lively and shimmering collections evoke the talent and the craftsmanship of the women Miao.
With every rare piece she discovers in the archives, Mrs Rouart feels a lot of emotion because that rare textile bears a story. About the persons who made it. About the person who wore it. “Every time, I like to document in the best possible way the piece that Pierre Frey acquires, in respect to its epoch and origin and in comparison with other collections in museums in order to retrace the history of this piece.”
Old Asian fabrics are an endless source of delightful stories. “I love the legend on the discovery of the silk thread around 2690 BC. The Chinese Empress Hsi Ling Shi drank tea under a mulberry tree and a cocoon fell into her cup. By taking it out, she involuntarily pulled out a thread of silk.”
Special thanks go to Mrs Sophie Rouart, curator and archivist, and to the House Pierre Frey