Icons of the Exchange: Hermès
Crafted from the finest silk and individually screen-printed, an Hermès scarf is the ultimate timeless fashion accessory
While Hermès’ silk scarves are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, it is the Hermès carré (square) that the brand is most famous for. The perfect shape for styling versatility, the classic carré can be fashioned into myriad forms, from a standard neck scarf or neck tie, to a shawl, head scarf, bandana or even a top. Grace Kelly famously used her Hermès scarf as a stylish sling when she injured her arm.
This versatility, combined with the lightweight nature of silk, which makes it an easy accessory to always carry with you – a popular way to carry an Hermès scarf is tied around the wrist, or looped around the handle of your bag – is certainly one factor in Hermès scarves attaining their iconic status, but what is it about Hermès’s silk scarves, in particular, that has so pursuasively captured the imagination of sartorial icons ranging from Queen Elizabeth II and Audrey Hepburn to Lady Gaga and Kamala Harris?
The answer lies in the design and craftsmanship that goes into making every single carré created since the French fashion house first introduced them, in 1937. Each carré requires 37km of the highest-grade raw silk filament, selected for its strength and thickness. Hermès’ silk is produced at its own specialist facility, giving it control over the entirety of the production process from start to finish.
Each carré is individually screen-printed, with one screen used for each shade of colour featured in the design. On average an Hermès scarf contains 27 colours and the screen-printing process can take up to 750 hours. Selecting the exact shades of each colour to best realise each scarf’s design is also a lengthy process, taking engravers around six months to select the perfect tones from 75,000 colour options.
"In total, the creation of an Hermès scarf can take up to two years from start to finish"
Hermès artisans also keep one of fashion’s most closely guarded secrets, about the innovative technique they use to create the house’s double-face editions, which cleverly feature a different design on each side of the delicate fabric.
As for the designs themselves, Hermès continuously collaborates with a vast array of artists to explore fresh ideas, and selects 20 new designs to produce each year. Recurring themes are fantasy scenes, abstract designs and depictions of the natural world. Limited editions, produced to support local non-profit organisations, are regularly released.
The finishing touch is by an Hermès seamstress, who hand-rolls and stitches the edges of each carré with a silk thread. In total, the creation of an Hermès scarf can take up to two years from start to finish.
With an abundance of designs to choose from and available in three sizes: 70x70cm, 90x90cm and 140x140cm, there’s an Hermès carré to suit every personality. Hermès silk scarves are also one of the most sought-after items of vintage fashion collectors, making them an investment piece as well as a highly versatile and exquisitely crafted fashion accessory.
Astronomie Astrologie Double Face Scarf 90, £480, Hermès
The Royal Exchange celebrates its 450th anniversary this year. Our Icons of the Exchange series pays homage to the exceptional array of retailers that call The Royal Exchange home, with a look at the heritage, design and craftsmanship of products that epitomise the essence and excellence of our celebrated brands.
We look forward to welcoming you to The Royal Exchange during 2021, for a considered shopping experience in spectacular and historic surroundings. Please visit our boutiques page for regular updates on our retailers’ opening information and hours, as well as details about virtual appointments and click and collect services.
Visit our heritage page to learn more about the history of The Royal Exchange and keep an eye on our 450 Years site, journal and Instagram for more fascinating facts and insights about our past and present as we commemorate this special milestone throughout the year ahead.