The History of the Hermes Scarf
The history of the Hermes scarves is a story of luxury. The name Hermes is synonymous with luxury—it really is the best of the best. The brand is known for its quality and desirability and I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t wish she had a beautiful Birkin or Kelly holy-grail-of-a-handbag to hang from her arm (even though she may never admit it). Almost as equally as coveted is the famous Hermes scarf and that trademark orange flat box it comes in. As many of us know, the Hermes brand started as a harness and bridle workshop for horses in Paris in 1837. Thierry Hermes catered to the elite of Europe, and eventually the company expanded into other leather goods (handbags, clothing, etc.). The company continued to grow in popularity over the decades, becoming a global powerhouse in the fashion world and continually expanding into different avenues of design. Even today, the company is family-owned, with no licensing deals, and no mass-production. Nearly everything they make is done right in France by experienced artisans who understand the importance of quality.
The history Hermes scarf dates the introduction of the first scarf in 1937. The design was based on a woodblock drawing by Robert Dumas, who was a member of the Hermes family. The Hermes scarf designs were produced from start to finish—they bought the raw silk from China, spun it into yarn, wove it into fabric, and screen-printed it.
Each scarf is still individually screen-printed, and designers (of which there are many) are able to choose from tens of thousands of colors for their designs. Think $400+ is too much to pay for a square of silk? Consider this: Once a Hermes scarf design is complete, artisans in the Hermes workshops located outside Lyon take over (some 750 people are employed there!). It takes about 18 months to produce a scarf from that point—the engravers alone take some six months to determine each scarf’s distinct colors (on average about 27) and it takes about 750 hours to engrave the screens for printing (one screen for each color).
Today, Hermes scarves typically measure 90cm x 90cm (36 or so inches square), and are made from the silk of mulberry moth cocoons. Each edge is hand-rolled and hand-stitched (a great way to help determine if you’ve got a fake or genuine example), and I have read that one seamstress will roll and stitch only about seven scarves per day. (it’s about quality and craftsmanship, not quotas!) Two collections of silk scarves and two collections of cashmere/silk blend scarves are released each year (and sometimes reprints of old designs or limited editions are put out, as well). The 2,000+ designs that have been made vary greatly, but many have equestrian motifs. We have seen the Hermes scarf everywhere—Princess Grace of Monaco used one as a sling for her broken arm in 1956. Emily Blunt’s character sent boxes and boxes of Hermes scarves flying into the air when she was (unfortunately) hit by a taxi in The Devil Wears Prada (apparently the devil also favors Hermes). Queen Elizabeth is frequently photographed with a Hermes scarf covering her head (and a postage stamp featuring her wearing one of the famous scarves came out in the 1950s). Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn were fans, as are many contemporary celebrities and fashion icons. Need to know how to tie a Hermes scarf in different ways? There’s literally an app for that. I think owning a Hermes scarf is almost a rite of passage for anyone interested in fashion. We are in love with vintage printed Hermes scarves at Rice and Beans Vintage and always have a few in stock, so bowse our selection of Vintage Hermes now and own a piece of history and art!
written by Heather Cox and Edited by Sarah Korsiak Cellier for Rice and Beans Vintage