A Beginner's Guide to Collecting Hermes Scarves
- Though most of the following information is common knowledge to any seasoned collector, my primary source for this information was the Hermès leaflet, Profile of a Scarf. If you feel I have used your information without permission, please provide the details so I may credit you accordingly. Also, French in not my first or even second language, so please feel free to send in any corrections.
- Every carrè has a name, a design title. Many designs are commemorative and have an overall theme including; equestrian, military, nautical, fantasy, floral, mythology, geographical, historical and more.
- Hermès artists are often known for a particular style of design. For example, American artist Kermit Oliver is famous for his dramatic Texas flora, fauna and Native American Indian designs, while Leigh Cooke has created exquisite floral pieces. The artist usually signs the design - but not always!
- Each new design is issued in a number of different colours, sometimes called a colour way, or cw for short. This refers to the predominate colour of the carrè. Many designs have a border and often the border colour is used to describe the colour way. Collectors also use terms such as base colour and secondary colour.
- Hermès issues two collections each year - Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Generally, there are 12 new designs in each season - 6 new designs and 6 re issues in new colour ways. Though I cannot confirm these figures, it is said that since 1937 Hermès has produced more than 1200 designs. If you add the wide range of colour ways, fabrics and detail designs...the final numbers are staggering!
- Designs may be reissued decades later, or only a few years after the original release. New colour ways may be introduced; a border may be added or removed. If the scarf was a vintage design, a copyright will be added and possibly, a design title.
- A carrè may have a contrast hem - a thin piping along the hem in a complimentary / contrasting colour. Scarves with a contrast hem are quite popular among collectors and look exceptionally pretty when knotted and tied.
- A limited number of monochromatic scarves are also issued by Hermès. These are referred to as a finesse carrè. A true finesse uses only two colours, the base and one other colour to outline and shade the design. For example, Jungle Love by artist Robert Dallet was issued in many different colour ways and also issued as a finesse.
- Hermès also produces a plissé; a silk twill scarf with tiny accordion or concertina-type folds on the bias. A plissé is more expensive than a silk twill, and also quite costly for Hermès to clean and re press (approx $100 USD).
- There are three classic sizes to Hermès scarves:
- Full carrè size: 35" x 35"
- GM or XL shawl: 55" x 55"
- Pochette: 16" x 16" also referred to as a pocket square
We also have the new 70 x 70 cm size released in 2007/08.*
* Although the 70 x 70 may be new to many collectors, Hermès has in fact issued scarves in this size a number of times over the years.
- Most designs are first issued on silk twill. Hermès may reissue the design in a different size and/or weave such as mousseline – a lovely lightweight fabric also referred to as silk chiffon. Another popular weave is the 65% cashmere / 35% silk often seen in GM shawls. The latter is more expensive than silk twill and highly coveted by collectors. There are certainly other fabrics we see such as cotton and angora, but the silk twill, mousseline and silk/cashmere blend are the most popular and dare I say, most common.
- After the death of Robert Dumas in 1978, his son Jean-Louis Dumas took over the role of directing the team of artists-illustrators. All Hermès scarves are hand-printed using multiple silk screens. It takes a studio of 20 freelance designers approximately 9 - 10 months for a final pattern to be created and approved, and then colour testing requires another 3 months. The entire process from design to concept, engraving and printing, to the hand-finishing process takes approximately two years.
- Each Hermès scarf has on average, at least five different colours. The scarf with the most colours (42) is "A Vos Crayons". Other scarves with a lot of colour include, Feux d’Artifice, Pierres d’Orient et d’Occident, and Kachinas.
- Emile-Maurice Hermès once said that his scarves were so beautiful that even the backs had to be seen. It is because of this that all Hermès scarves are hand stitched and hemmed back to front.
- The hand-stitched, hand-rolled hem, is called a "roule". It takes approximately 45 minutes for a hem to be hand rolled and sewn. The rolling of the roule is the final step in creating the carrè and the women who roll the hems are called, roulotteuses. I have never heard of any men performing this task, though certainly there may be some. No gender bashing is intended – I assume they would be called, roulotteusors;-)
- Some suggest if you find a care tag with a single letter on the end, that it has been finished by one of the more experienced roulotteuses . For example, you will sometimes see the letters A, D or P on an Hermès care tag with A being the most common. This urban myth started long ago but is more likely a way for Hermès to identify production. Some care tags on vintage scarve, have numbers off to the side rather than a letter. I believe these served the same purpose.
- A 35" x 35" Hermès scarf contains a minimum of 63 grams of silk (2.2 ounces) from 250 mulberry cocoons.
- Hermès lists the size of a carrè as 36" x 36". This has confused many buyers who ask why most scarves on eBay are listed as 35" x 35". I believe if you stretch a silk scarf it is indeed 36" x 36", however when not stretched these more accurately measures 35" x 35".
- Best selling designs include: Ex Libris, Brides de Gala, Les Cles, Eperon d' Or, Springs, Feux d' artifice, Flacons, Brise de charme, Daimyo, Joies d' hiver, Grand fonds, Luna Park and Plaza de toros.
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