Having celebrated 110 years in business this year, Poltrana Frau’s story begins in 1912, when Renzo Frau set up the business in Turin. The name combines the Italian word for armchair, poltrona, and the founder’s surname. By 1926, the company had already made a name for itself with its exquisite handmade leather upholstery: Italy’s royal family, the Savoia dynasty, chose them as an official supplier. Just two years later, the brand reached further milestones, furnishing the interiors of the 1928 Expo in Turin and Italy’s transatlantic cruiser, the Rex ocean liner.
Starting out with traditional designs, including Chesterfield styles, the manufacturer soon ventured into making modern pieces. In 1930, Poltrona Frau introduced the art-deco-influenced Vanity Fair armchair, which is still in production today.
In 1962, the business moved its headquarters to Tolentino in Central Italy, a region that’s long been a centre of tanning workshops. In the same decade, the brand started inviting contemporary designers, architects and creatives to develop pieces for the collection. These included Italian mid-century icons like Gio Ponti, who came up in 1963 with the Dezza armchair, and architect Mario Marenco. More recently, design A-listers, including Peter Marino, Neri+Hu, Jean-Marie Massaud, GamFratesi, and Ludovica + Roberto Palomba have worked with Poltrona Frau.
Then and now, most products incorporate the brand’s soft leather. Named Pelle Frau, Poltrona Frau makes these soft skins in tanneries involving a 21-step process. Every single layer is dyed completely, ensuring a long life as no scratch will uncover a white lining. The bovine hides are sourced mainly from Europe. It is always full grain, the most precious and hard-wearing layer of the bovine dermis.
In addition to producing furniture and lighting, the company also fits out yachts, planes and helicopters with this exceptional leather. Poltrona Frau runs an onsite research facility in Tolentino, where experts test prototypes and new manufacturing methods – and ensure that the brand keeps evolving and innovating.