Liz Roache’s New Collaboration with Pierre Frey
December 2, 2020
Text by Erika Ayn Finch Photography by Joyelle West
Artist Liz Roache sits at one end of an infinitely long drafting table, wearing a custom orangey-red (her favorite color) dress featuring one of her own graphic designs and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses so chic someone will soon stop her in the hallway to compliment her. She’s buzzing over her collaboration with textile tastemaker Pierre Frey, which debuts this fall. Roache is the first American artist—handpicked by chairman and artistic director Patrick Frey himself—to partner with the French brand. “I used to think in print,” declares Roache. “Now I think in curtains.”
In fall 2019, when Pierre Frey opened its Boston Design Center showroom next door to Roache’s studio, Patrick Frey popped in to introduce himself to his new neighbor. He was immediately entranced by Roache’s bold, graphic aesthetic. “I loved it,” declares Frey. “It was very modern—we hadn’t done anything like it at all.”
In short order, Frey had Roache ship a selection of her prints to his Paris headquarters, where, he says, his team fell in love with the optimistic feel of the designs. The result is a capsule collection, titled Optimism, of five fabrics, five wallcoverings, and three rugs featuring Roache’s bold patterns. It’s the artist’s first foray into the world of textiles; when she visited the Pierre Frey studios in January to review the prototypes, she burst into tears. “They got the way that I think,” she says.
And how does Roache think? In shapes, colors, and scale. Beginning in the 1990s, Roache spent thirty-five years studying and then teaching with Ati Gropius Johansen, daughter of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement. Roache was chosen to become Ati’s successor when she passed away in 2014, teaching color and design all over the world. In 2017, Roache opened a studio and showroom to the public and design trade in the BDC. (Earlier this year, she launched a collection of signed fine-art posters with Design Within Reach.)
Frey loves the idea of pairing the new prints with eighteenth-century furniture. Roache says she can envision the designs fitting into posh hotels and corporate spaces. Both Roache and Frey see the collection working in neutral spaces that hunger for a dramatic moment or in maximalist rooms lush with layers of patterns and color. “It just depends on whether a designer wants the whole dish or just a little salt and pepper,” Roache says with a smile.