The Hermes Scarf: History & Mystique

Overview

A sumptuous selection of Hermès scarves chosen from seven decades of creative innovation.
The Hermès scarf is a style icon. Worn by royalty and celebrities, coveted and admired, and now avidly collected, this deceptively simple square of silk is much more than just a fashion accessory: it is the stuff of legend.
Since the first scarf made its debut in 1937, the House of Hermès has produced more than two thousand different designs. From the ...

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Overview

A sumptuous selection of Hermès scarves chosen from seven decades of creative innovation.
The Hermès scarf is a style icon. Worn by royalty and celebrities, coveted and admired, and now avidly collected, this deceptively simple square of silk is much more than just a fashion accessory: it is the stuff of legend.
Since the first scarf made its debut in 1937, the House of Hermès has produced more than two thousand different designs. From the classic scarves that embody the Hermès tradition to the wildly imaginative stylings of contemporary designers, the House is always forging new paths and yet is never afraid to take a fresh and often witty approach to its own heritage.
A scarf is not the work of a single individual; at each stage of its creation, talent and craftsmanship combine to create a work of art. These qualities shine through in the illustrations, by turns playful and poetic, which lead the reader into a richly colored world with a multitude of motifs. They range from the equestrian themes that are internationally associated with the Hermès brand, through French history and the natural world, to global cultures. From vibrant opulence to subtle harmony, every scarf conveys a mood and every one tells a story.

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Editorial Reviews

Coolhunting
“An essential accessory to luxury lifestyles…has symbolized twentieth century beauty wealth and fantasy since its creation in 1937”
Veranda
“You can almost feel the cool, smooth squares of silk flowing through your fingers as you turn the pages of Nadine Coleno’s chic coffee table tribute to Hermès. You can’t help but pick your favorites”
Hamptons
“A must-have for any fashionista’s bookshelf…filled with page after page of gorgeous photographs”
Phoenix
“This glossy tome grants access to seven decades of Hermès styles…and the imaginative women who loved them”
Vanity Fair
“A must have for Hermes devotees, collectors, and those in pursuit of iconic fashion.”
The Barnes & Noble Review

They look like cupcakes from afar -- a neat array of vibrant cupcakes. But, on closer inspection, Belles du Mexique reveals itself as an overhead shot of Mexican dancers twirling. The women hold up their skirts, which form circles of bright color, and some let their scarves flow behind them. In the middle, a central dancer spins inside a patterned square while being serenaded by a Mariachi quartet. The musicians are just the circles of their sombreros, with only the occasional hint of a multi-colored shawl or an instrument peaking out. It’s a brilliant and whimsical design, done in 2007 by Virginie Jamin for Hermès as one of its signature scarves.

The Hermès scarf remains a signal bit of luxury in our consumptive age. The first was made in 1937 on the centennial of a company that began as an elegant saddlery. More than 2,000 have been produced and they’ve been worn regularly in public by some of the world’s most photographed women, from Queen Elizabeth to Grace Kelly to Jane Birkin. The classic scarves depict luxurious horse regalia (Brides des Gala and Mors à la Conétable), hunting scenes (Chasses exotiques), and arrays of intricate bibelot (Les Cles and Passementerie).

But there are also bright celebrations of world cultures (Chasse en Inde and Perles du Kenya) and stunning abstractions. The superb 2003 Méditerranée captures in a very Milton Avery-like way the essence of that sea -- white lines running left to right on a single block of color and thinning as they recede into the horizon. In recent years, a meta-scarf trend has even sprung up, with Hermès’ designers making scarves about scarves: 2006’s A Cheval sur mon carré, is a horse, the company’s symbol, shaped out of overlapping scarves.

The Hermès Scarf: History and Mystique is a beautifully produced gathering of these silkscreened riches. Though a delight to leaf through, it must be described as a disappointment. Nadine Coleno’s text borders on gibberish -- “Elegance was expressed in ease of wear and luxurious materials, in harmony and balance, and in discretion that would tolerate neither tedium nor affected uniformity” -- and she fails to give an adequate history of her subject or to detail the intricate production process. I had particularly hoped that the book would bring to life some of the designers behind the works, figures like Philippe Ledoux and Hugo Grygkar, but they remain but names in a list. There is, moreover, no discussion of the endlessly evolving aesthetic of the scarves: the size and materials have changed over time as have the basic colors. There can be little doubt, for instance, that Jean-Louis Dumas and his wife, Rena, effected a wholesale change in the coloring of the scarves in the years after he took over the running of the company in 1978. (The recently deceased Dumas was the fifth-generation of the family to run Hermès (1978-2006) and responsible for turning it into an international mega-brand.)

Yet, if the book is a lost opportunity, it reproduces more than 300 scarves in brilliant color and can only be called a feast.

--Robert Messenger

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500515181
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 7/15/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 332,635
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nadine Coleno is a French author and editor whose books include works on fashion, jewelry, contemporary art, and architecture.

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