Every once in a while, when we’re running around the French and Parisian antique fairs like maniacs (usually at the crack of dawn and usually in the pouring rain), buying up the treasures that catch our eye, we’ll stumble upon a serious cache of goodies that are way too good to pass up: vintage Hèrmes scarves.
Hermes in the store
Who can resit an Hermès scarf? Hermès is the most Frenchy of all the French brands out there and their iconic orange box and brown ribbon is enough to throw us into quite the tizzy. With its humble beginnings in 1837 as a saddler, the Hermès universe has grown to include fine jewelry, couture fashion, home accessories – and, if you are an equestrian – the most elegant saddles, bridles and other horsey finery in the universe.
But, back to the scarves. From Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly to Queen Elizabeth II, Anne Hathaway and Madonna, there are millions of us who adore the chic designs of the “carrés” (squares, in French). The first scarf was introduced in 1937 and since then, thousands of designs have been introduced – and re-introduced – over the decades as limited editions.
Of course, the French pull off the carré with their usual charm, wearing them around their necks, on their handbags, as a headpiece, as a bracelet or as clothing. The scarves effortlessly elevate a white tee shirt, a pair of jeans, a simple dress and a classic blazer to new heights.
Thank goodness Hermès has tips on how to tie your scarf. There’s even an App!
It’s pretty much a universal fact that anything Hermès is good investment and vintage scarves are no exception. We have fallen quite in love with the gently-worn ones we’ve found – the silk is wonderful soft; the designs are always beautiful and we always feel like we’re preserving a little piece of history and French culture with them. (The ones we scooped up on our last trip have all been professionally cleaned but because they are vintage and pre-owned, some have a little discoloration that is just the result of age and wear.) And ours all come with that instantly identifiable orange box that makes our hearts race.
The designs are just gorgeous: rich, vibrant, original and truly like art. Some of the patterns we found on our last trip are oldies but goodies, like this Brides de Gala (favored by Queen Elizabeth II):
Brides de Gala, issued in 1957, was designed by Hugo Grygkar and is Hermès’s best-selling design of all time.
This is my favorite: Jonques et Sampans, originally issued in 1966 by Francoise de la Perriere.
Cosmos – very rich and vibrant with its gold and navy palette. First introduced in 1966 and designed by Philippe LeDoux
There are plenty of Hermès lookalikes out there and we’ve honed our detective skills so we can spot the fakes out there. Here are some tips to help identify the reals from the imposters:
1. There is always an accent over the second “è” in Hermès Paris logo. No accent means it’s faux
2. The hems are always hand-rolled and hand-stitched in the same color thread as the border.The hem should look hand-done. Anything too perfect means it was machine-stitched. Faux!
3. There is always a little hand-stitched tag (again in the same color stitching as the border) that says “100% soie” and “fabrique en France”. Sometimes these come off over the years but if Anything else means you’ve got an imposter on your hands.
4. Most vrai scarfs have its title somewhere in the design. If you can’t find a title, you may have a faux on your hands. And if you can find the artist’s signature, even better.
If you’re planning on investing in a vintage – or even a new scarf – remember these pointers: dry clean only (no ironing!) and keep them in the papers and box they came in, especially if you might resell sometime. And don’t forget they also look wonderful framed and hanging on the wall.
We’re headed back to France in a few weeks to do a little more buying – and you can bet we’ll have our eyes peeled for more of these silky treasures.
In the meantime, we’d love to know two things: tell us your favorite Hermes pattern and how you like to wear your scarf. If I ever break my arm, I’m wearing mine a la Grace Kelly!
Grace Kelly makes her broken arm look impossibly chic. Photo from Pinterest.