Hermès scarfs: the history of a legend

Hermès scarf: a myth in the form of a silk square, illustrated as it it was a book.

Hermès scarf: A brief History

 Some women collect them, others inherit them from their mothers in the same way they would inherit a precious jewel (the passing of time does not reduce their beauty or their quality), some women buy them as a must have or for pure curiosity. Even the most refractory ladies sooner or later capitulate in front of the appeal of the Hermés scarf, a mythical quadrant of pure silk. Unique and inimitable. A fashion statement. The first specimen was produced in 1937 in Lyons (centre of excellence for silk processing from the end of the 16th century) which was given the name ‘Jeu des Omnibus et Dames Blanches’. However, it was only at the end of the 1940s that the product took off. It all started with a meeting between Emile Hermès and Marcel Gandit, a skilled weaver who invented the square print, a method which allowed the creation of complex and elaborate chromatic compositions, rich in contrasts and tones. It was such a success that the ‘silk triangle’ became an essential accessory of the jet set of the time (worn around the neck or around the shoulders) a fashion that continues to the present day.

 The making of the Hermès Scarf

After in-depth research and the go-ahead by Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Artistic Director of Hermès, the designer produces various sketches before a final choice is made. This phase takes from six to twelve months. The result is then sent to the engraver who breaks it down into colour screens whose meticulous overlapping will gradually take the shape of the design of the carré. After the engraving laboratory phase, next comes printing and colouring. The first step is trying out the colours from a range of more than 75,000 different shades (sometimes more than 50 tests are made before a final decision is made). Once this phase is completed, the roll of silk is unravelled and laid on a printing table one hundred metres long (which corresponds to a hundred carrés) on which an artisan engraver lays the screens with which to spread out the colour. The colour is then scraped off carefully and left to soak into the silk fibres. When it is dry, it is fixed in an autoclave and starched in order to guarantee a shine. The final stage entails an expert sewing a hem all around it by hand. The carré is checked one last time and after two years’ work it is finally ready to be wrapped in crepe paper and placed in the trademark orange box.

Hermès scarf in numbers

 Each collection comprises nine prints, and ranges from classic models to differently coloured earlier prints. From 1937, for over 70 years Hermès has produced around a thousand different designs, at least fifteen a year, or one every three weeks. Each carré (one side is 90 cm long) is produced in at least 12 different colour combinations. A silk twill carré weighs 65 g and is made out of 4 km of silk thread. Total number of hours that take to make it: 1200. One Hermès scarf is sold every 25 seconds worldwide. The silk scarf is a world must have fashion accessories.

Hermès Scarf oddities

Queen Elisabeth II wore it tied around her neck in a portrait used on postage stamps, Grace kelly used it as a bandage for a broken arm. Jackie Kennedy tied it around her face, Audrey Hepburn used it as a decoration for her hat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sarah Jessica Parker as a bandana in Sex and the City.

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