In 1937, honoring the 100th anniversary of iconic luxe fashion and accessory house, the first Hermès scarf was created. Originally inspired by the fabric that had been used for making jockeys’ silks — also known as colors — Hermès scarves have a legacy connected to horse tack and equipment. The company began as a saddlery, bridal and harness maker, so the connection to horses and their riders was a natural one.
The first scarf design was based on a woodblock drawing by Robert Dumas, a member of the Hermès family. Made using imported raw Chinese silk, spinning it into yarn, Hermès scarves had a unique strength that made them an instant hit — especially with those who could afford them.
Then and now the company’s scarf designers spend years creating new print patterns that are individually screen-printed (over 750 hours are required to engrave the screens for printing — one screen per color) in a dedicated factory near Lyon, France. On average, each scarf has 27 distinct colors. One scarf can take a full 18 months to complete, making it one of the most meticulously-crafted accessories in the world.
Contemporary Hermès carrés (scarf squares) measure 90 cm × 90 cm, weigh 65 grams, are woven from the silk of “250 mulberry moth cocoons,” and each hem is hand-rolled and hand-stitched. Only two silk-scarf collections are released per year, along with some reprints of older designs and limited editions. Since 1937, Hermès has produced over 2,000 unique designs with the horse motif still the most famous and popular.
Since Hermès always catered to the very rich, the scarf was quickly adopted by royalty and celebrities. It was (and still is) worn as a headscarf by Queen Elizabeth II, as well as by other iconic and classically elegant well known personalities such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. They were often seen and photographed wearing them. Ms. Kelly famously used one as a sling for her broken arm.
Still today many Hermès scarf images and colors harken back to original Jockey Silks — all of which must be registered and approved by the Jockey Club.
Sherry Qualls is the CEO of White Good, a fully integrated boutique marketing communications agency specializing in furnishings, decorative finishes and building products for the residential and commercial market segments.