Poltrona Frau, the ultimate leather emporium

Poltrona Frau, the ultimate leather emporium

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By: Álvaro Tavares Ramos

Founded in 1912, Poltrona Frau continues to be a reference in the best Italian leather, from furniture production to plane and yacht interiors

When Bottega Veneta launched its first furniture and home accessory collection, Poltrona Frau was the chosen partner to develop the pieces for the iconic Italian house. The choice couldn’t have been better: a specialist in producing leather pieces and with a culture of quality and attention to detail, Poltrona Frau reflected the vision of Bottega Veneta’s creative director, Tomas Maier, to perfection, bringing the Italian brand’s style and individuality to the house. Despite this prestigious collaboration, Poltrona Frau is recognised in its own right in the world of design and interiors.

Founded in 1912 by Renzo Frau, the Italian brand began its journey thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of its founder. Having left his native Sardinia for military service in Milan, Renzo eventually moved to Turin, a cultural centre in Italy at that time, after marrying Savina Pisati. On his travels to the UK for work, Frau discovered the classic Chesterfield sofas and armchairs. Spotting their potential instantly, he began importing them to Italy. At the same time, Frau was attracted to the French and Central Europe-type style and, in 1912, he created an artisanal production unit to reproduce these pieces.

Although at the beginning the focus was on reproducing imported-style furniture, Poltrona Frau soon began making its own pieces, thus becoming not only a production hub but also a meeting point for artists and intellectuals. Renzo Frau nurtured these relationships to consolidate the brand, and not only did he introduce various models, such as the 128 armchair that is still in production under the name 1919, but he also took on a prominent role in the market, supplying hotels, cruises and the Italian royal family.

After the founder’s untimely death in 1926, Savina Pisati took the reins of Poltrona Frau and followed her husband’s vision through an extensive archive left by Renzo, which would be the brand’s creative base over the following years. One of the first signs that Pisati was following her husband’s commercial spirit was the launch of an illustrated advertisement by the artist Golia. The image shows God sitting on one of the brand’s armchairs and reads “On the seventh day he rested… on a Poltrona Frau”. The illustration depicts the brand’s advertising gall well, as well as its commitment to quality and comfort. That same attitude would be vital for Poltrona Frau in its many important projects, such as the Universal Exposition of Turin, the Rex transatlantic ship and the Italian parliament.

When Poltrona Frau’s destiny was handed over to Roberto Canziani, Savina Pisati’s son-in-law, in 1941, the Italian manufacturer entered a new phase and debuted in the motoring world by joining forces with Pininfarina, as well as collaborating with Pirelli to develop the Novi-Nove, a line of products with foam rubber padding. With the sale of Poltrona Frau in 1962 and the arrival of Franco Moschini to head up the company, the brand started to consistently work with renowned designers and architects. The iconic architect, designer and artist Gio Ponti was one of them. Blending the tradition of leather workmanship for which Poltrona Frau has always been known and elegant, modern forms, the Dezza sofa and armchair line, designed by Ponti in 1965, is undoubtedly one of the brand’s great icons and a recognised classic of Italian design.

Another Poltrona Frau icon that can still be found in the brand’s catalogue is the Sanluca armchair, designed by the brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. Conceived with the intention of avoiding the traditional building technique, leaving bare the “strictly needed” curves, Sanluca is an excellent example of 20th-century Italian design, blending ergonomy, sculptural lines and attention to detail. Even the DU30 chair, designed in 1953 by Gastone Rinaldi and which received the Compasso d’Oro the following year, was recently reintroduced. Smooth at the back and with an unusual cutting and stitching effect, reminiscent of the artist Lucio Fontana, the seat is a demonstration that Rinaldi pieces still have the same elegance and refinement as when they were first created.

But beyond classics and archive pieces, Poltrona Frau has also established its luxurious and unmistakeable style. From the GranTorino sofa, inspired by the world of saddlery, the bar in the shape of luggage, Isidoro, both designed by Jean-Marie ­Massaud, and the Esedra pouf by Monica Förster, the Italian brand has not only combined modernity with the traditional workmanship of its artisans, but also presented its leather in an exceptional manner. As the material with which Poltrona Frau has built its success, leather plays a key role in all of its creations. Choosing only the best leather from Europe, which is then tanned in Italy, Pelle Frau® is defined by its quality, resistance, comfort and great diversity of colours and finishes.

Besides the furniture collection, leather is also the distinguishing feature in the Interiors in Motion division, established in 1984. Dedicated to the motor, aviation and boat sector, this division of Poltrona Frau began its story with the creation of the interiors for the limited edition Lancia Thema 8:32. Since then, the manufacturer has applied its vast know-how in projects for Maserati, Lexus, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Pershing yachts and Italo NTV’s high-speed trains. As such, the next time you come across a Poltrona Frau piece, be sure to notice the quality and attention to detail that is so intrinsic in this iconic centenarian brand.

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