Cats sell. Elbowing my way through the crowd of Paris fashion week attendees on Rue François-1er last month, I stopped at the sight of wild cats on Hermès’s show window.
Inside the store, a new Dallet scarf of a leopard lunging in the grass was on display. There were cats on cashmere, silk shawls and tote bags on the shelves. There was also plenty of equatorial fauna, including monkeys, parrots and more wild cats illustrated by naturalist artist Robert Dallet on the Hermès 90cm square thick silk twills that melt around the neck.
It does not even have to be so fancy. Just take an inexpensive dress, grey shoes, a classic bag and a wonderful scarf — and it will always be elegant.
French women have the genes to knot them right, the Italians wear theirs with easy panache. Christians have worn wimples, Jewish women wear a tichel, and Muslim women a hijab. Scarves were worn by the Chinese and Egyptians even in 1000 BC. And in 10 AD the Romans too began to knot a kerchief around their neck. By the 17th century, Croatian mercenaries wore scarves to signify rank, and the French wore their ‘cravates’ — derived from the Croatian word kravata — in colours that showed off their political allegiance.
Elsa Schiaparelli… created in 1935 designs referencing the sari for evening gowns. These gowns were wrapped gracefully around the body and were worn with scarves.
From serving rank and politics all over the world, scarves shot to stardom when none other than Napoleon Bonaparte sent cashmere scarves, sourced from India, by the dozen to his empress Josephine. Beethoven too wooed his lady Therese Malfatti by wearing fashionable silk neck scarves matched to his suits. Queen Victoria loved wearing them as well and she set the humble scarf up to be an icon of femininity and sophistication.