The classic Hermes scarf is pricey, but collectible

October 29, 1992|By Gwen Salley-Schoen | Gwen Salley-Schoen,McClatchy News Service

In the world of fashion, the term "classic" is tossed about like a rubber duck in the Pacific. However, there's just a handful of true classics -- things your grandmother or your mother wore that you wear today, and have gone unchanged for decades.

Certainly, Hermes scarfs would be included on that list.

In the 1800s, Thierry Hermes opened a harness shop for coach builders, on the Champs Elysees in Paris. At the turn of the century, Thierry's son, Emile-Charles, began selling saddles and leather goods in a retail shop at 24 Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris. When the automobile arrived in the early 1900s, the company began producing other leather goods such as luggage and bags.

(It is interesting to note that Hermes, pronounced "air-mez," in Greek mythology was the god of the roads. The company logo is a horse-drawn carriage.)

Today, leather goods account for only 12 percent of the company business; the rest of the sales are in perfume, jewelry, neckties and gloves sold worldwide and through that same retail shop in Paris.

The name Hermes is, in the 1990s, usually associated with the company's famous scarves, 36-inch-square status symbols with a hefty price tag of about $225.

Each year, Hermes introduces 12 new scarf designs. Each of these will be produced in about six color ways (color combinations). The designs are patented. They then are printed on 20 mummy silk. (Mummy is a measure for silk that designates density. Most scarf companies use 10 mummy silk.) The edge of each scarf has a hand-rolled hem.

According to Hermes, the entire process for each scarf design, from concept through design, printing, hemming production and distribution, takes 2.5 years to complete and is the result of the collaborative effort of 300 hand-craftsmen and 500 technicians. Almost 1,000 designs have been created since the first scarf appeared on the shelves in 1937. One scarf tells the story of the pageantry of the coronation of Alexander III in the Cathedral of the Assumption on May 27, 1883.

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