The Story of a French Institution – the Hermès Scarf (and It Makes a Nice Christmas Gift as Well)

The Hermès scarf called “le carré” – the square – is probably the only scarf in the world that has its own dedicated Facebook page, its wikipedia entry and even a dedicate book (“Carrés d’art” by Geneviève Fontan).
The scarf, a must for any self-respected fashionista and a synonym for luxury, is now even a collectors’ item.
The Hermès company was set up in 1837 by Thierry Hermès initially for producing high end saddlery (hence the emblem of Hermès a flying horse!).
At the beginning of the 20th century Adolphe and Emile-Maurice, grandchildren of Thierry, diversified the production adding other leather goods like bags, belts and gloves. They are said to be the first users of the zipper in France.

The first “carré” was created in 1937 – exactly 100 years after the creation of the Hermès house – by Robert Dumas then the company’s director and son-in-law of one of descendants of the Hermès family. The first design was called: “Jeu des omnibus et dames blanches” and was representing a group playing a “Goose Game” surrounded by horse drawn carriages – in keeping with the dedication of the house to the equestrian world.

"Jeu des omnibus et dames blanches" Scarf
“Jeu des omnibus et dames blanches” Scarf

Since then more than 1500 models – each with a name, and each issued in a number of different colors – have been created at a rate of around 15 models each year around various themes like travel, animals, arts and folkloric traditions, sport, nature, history.
The number of scarves created on each theme is a carefully guarded secret of the House of Hermès.
The best sold is one 1957 creation by designer Hugo Grykar: “Brides de gala” re-edited several times.
"Brides de gala" Hermès scarf
“Brides de gala” Hermès scarf
The most expensive – a 1950 model representing heath cocks signed Xavier de Poret. – was sold for 3813 € – more than 10 times the regular price for a new scarf – at an auction held in October 2011.
The sovereign House of Grimaldi in Monaco ordered in 2011 a limited edition of Hermès scarves – the model was named “Jungle Love Ithemba” – to be offered to the guests at the marriage of Albert and Charlene.

Hermes is a family business dedicated to the creation of unrivaled quality products. The artisanal skills are one of the features of the brand: certain manufacturing operations are done by hand, such as the cutting and the hems of the famous silk scarves.
Interestingly enough the silk for one scarf – standard 90CM/90CM or 35inches/35inchis – is produced by … a couple of silk worms. “A couple gives 300 eggs that make 300 new worms that produce 450km of silk thread”. While the silk thread of the scarves comes from Brazil the whole manufacturing process is located in France, mostly around the city of Lyon – with the exception of the hem making that is done manually in Madagascar.
Each model comes in different color combinations – selected from a swatch of 75000 colors. The colors are applied on the silk by serigraphy from the darkest color to the lighter. The first scarf produced had 13 colors and the most sophisticated – called “A vos creyons” – has 46.

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