Even if you’re a budding fashionista, you know the significance of the Hermès scarf. This silk accessory has been luxury fashion’s signature piece for cold summer evenings and warm autumn afternoons. The iconic square cut has inspired hundreds of imitations from other high-end brands like Coach and Louis Vuitton. It’s a rare stroke of genius to create something so iconic it transcends trends and time. Today, the fashion world can’t imagine exclusive style without this staple scarf. It took Hermès 100 years to evolve from a leather saddle shop to one of luxury fashion’s biggest names, but the pay-off was worth it. Let them be a reminder of how humble beginnings can lead to a grandiose end.
HOW EVERYTHING BEGAN
Thierry Hermès, father of the Hermès scarf, first established his company as a harness workshop in Paris serving European noblemen. His expertise in harness and bridle design won him several awards in the 19th-century including first prize at the Expositions Universelles in 1855 and 1867. When Thierry grew too old to keep up this quality work, Hermès passed to his son Èmile. The boy tweaked his father’s company into a saddlery and started selling his products retail. Thierry’s son also introduced the brand’s first bag, a product designed to help riders carry their saddles on the train. After this chapter as a saddlery, brothers Adolphe and Émile-Maurice took leadership of Hermès and started to expanded it into the fashion world. They introduced the zipper to Paris in 1918 and launched the label’s first official accessories collection in 1922.
CREATING THE HERMÈS SCARF
The Hermès scarf started as a conversation between Émile-Maurice and his cousin Robert Dumas. An aspiring artist hoping to see his work showcased, Dumas suggested Hermès incorporate one of his woodblock drawings into their burgeoning clothing business. Contemplating the design, the Hermès brothers decided to give their cousin’s art a shot on a new silk scarf design. Soon, hand-woven scarves were the talk of the town. Within a fortnight, Hermès was a top name in Parisian luxury fashion. Today, the Hermès scarf measures 36 inches square and is made from the silk of mulberry moth cocoons. Each edge is still meticulously hand-rolled and hand-stitched and four regular collections come out every year. Two feature the classic silk fabric of legend and two are of a newer cashmere/silk blend. Tracking these little details is a great way to identify imitation scarves.
A SCARF WITH A LEGACY
Ever since they transformed luxury fashion in France, Hermès has been the silk scarf of choice for celebrities and fashionistas across the globe. Its reputation even reached mythical proportions after Princess Grace Kelly wore a 1950s design as a sling for her broken arm. Other classic examples of the Hermès scarf in popular culture include a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II used on British postage and that infamous bondage scene in Basic Instinct. In the 21st-century, they’ve become practically the fashion world equivalent of a baseball card. Collectors bid thousands of dollars for vintage patterns and frame them to display on their walls. Despite their incredible reputation, the folks at Hermès are still determined to push their brand further. This decade, the brand is trying to widen their audience with new bowtie prints and ads that demonstrate both men and women can enjoy the famous Hermés scarf.
The story of how Hermès created one of fashion’s finest luxury items is unusual but exciting. What a motivator for picking the perfect scarf this summer. With more exotic and colorful prints debuting in 2017, it’s clear Hermès is a fashion brand that will continue building its legacy for years to come.
— Timothy Vest