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The Double-Sided Scarf That Tells a Story

By Lynette Kee

Photograph by Katherine Ang Styled by Michelle KokCouvertures et tenues de jour double face scarf 90 (left) and Della Cavalleria Favolosa double face scarf 90 (right), both in silk twill.

Hermès’s double face silk scarves, launched as part of the house’s Spring/Summer ’20 collection, is a genius concept that took 10 years to perfect. Since the first carré scarf was introduced in 1937, the French luxury house has acknowledged its highly covetable stature by releasing a wide range of them with a variety of themes — from classic and whimsical to completely abstract — all printed on Hermès’s iconic silk.

Every traditional, single-sided silk scarf is steeped in craftsmanship. The colours are applied one at a time — the process carefully controlled by hand to ensure that each dye seeps through evenly onto the other side. The double face scarf, however, reaches beyond the conventional perimeters of this artistry, and calls for the craftsmen at the house of Hermès to unlearn their skills in order to embark on a new journey. The challenge is to extend its field of colour and design onto both sides of the scarf while retaining the delicate texture, density and weight of the silk twill. The answer to this conundrum is to go in the reverse direction from accepted wisdom, to ensure that the dye does not penetrate the silk, but simply touches and stays on one side.

The idea was born when Bali Barret, the artistic director of the women’s universe at Hermès, came across a silk scarf in a military surplus store, printed with different military maps on each side. “At first, the craftsmen told me that it was impossible to do,” she says. “[But] technology has evolved a great deal in the last 15 years and one day the craftsmen said ‘maybe.’ And then the adventure began. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time and tenacity.”

The artisans began experimenting — a journey that lasted three to four years before finally achieving the double face scarf. Measuring 90 by 90 centimetres, each Hermès double face scarf tells a story about cavalry in the past, personified by different artistic collaborations. The Della Cavalleria Favolosa by Virginie Jamin, for example, features enigmatic creatures and winged horses spiralling around baroque fixtures inspired by a 17th-century equestrian treatise in the Musée Émile Hermès. Jamin boldly pushes the technological innovation further with her contrasting interpretation of the design, one in colour and the other in monochrome, displaying the perfect blend of science and art.