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The Hermès Scarf: A Style Icon

11th March 2022. By Sarah White

One of the most iconic fashion accessories of all time, the Hermès Carré scarf is the epitome of luxury and elegance. Combining the finest materials, craftsmanship and design, the Hermès scarf is favoured by royalty and the fashion elite, young and old, but buying at auction allows everyone to own a little piece of fashion history at a more affordable price.

Hermès was established in Paris in 1837 by Thierry Hermès, and the company began life as a harness workshop supplying the European nobility, before moving into saddlery and associated leather goods. The first leather handbag was made in 1922, after Emile-Maurice Hermès’ wife complained that she could not find one she liked. Soon after the company began moving away from the utilitarian to concentrate on luxury lifestyle goods, and by the 1940s Hermès had become a leading international fashion retailer.

Alongside the Birkin Bag, the Hermès Carré scarf has become an iconic piece of fashion history. The scarf was introduced in 1937, designed as a woodblock print by Emile Hermès’ son-in-law, Robert Dumas. Made with the finest Chinese silk, the scarves soon caught the eye of Parisian society and became a must-have accessory. Since then, more than 2,000 elaborate, colourful designs have been created, and the scarf has become a wardrobe staple for the likes of our Queen, Grace Kelly, Jackie Onassis, and Madonna. Each year Hermès release two collections that mix classic designs based on their equestrian heritage and French history with witty contemporary patterns drawing inspiration from different cultures, the natural world and mythology. Reprints of favoured archived designs are issued each year too, such as the popular ‘Brides de Gala’.

The classic Carré (which means square) scarf measures 90 x 90cm, weighs 65 grams, and is woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons, although today Hermès make a wider range of sizes from large shawls to the 20cm ‘nano’. Each scarf is designed by an artist, and engraved onto a screen for printing, a process which can take up to 750 hours; most scarves have the artist’s signature and the title of the design featured somewhere in the pattern. Once printed, the hems of the scarves are hand-rolled and hand-stitched, a mark of the fine craftsmanship that goes into every piece.

When it comes to the value of Hermès scarves on the secondary market, many can be picked up for a fraction of the price they retail for new (currently £370 for a 90 x 90cm scarf). Vintage and more modern examples come up regularly in Tennants’ Costume, Accessories & Textiles Sales, with estimates in the region of £100-200. Scarves by certain designers, such as Hugo Grygkar and Robert Dallet, can be more sought after by specialist collectors, and thus fetch a higher price at auction. However, the final hammer price for a Hermès scarf is usually determined by how popular a pattern is. Look out for scarves in their original distinctive flat orange and black boxes and that are in good condition, but mostly look for a scarf in a pattern you love as these timeless scarves will never go out of style.

A wide selection of Hermès scarves have been consigned for sales throughout 2022, with the first tranche coming up in the Costume, Accessories and Textiles Sale on 28th May. To be notified when Hermès scarves come up at sale, create an alert through your My Tennants account. 

Sarah White

Sarah White

BA (Hons)

Textiles, Costume & Fashion Specialist, General Valuer

+ 44 (0) 1969 623780

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