63 grams is the weight of an Hermès scarf

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


CATY LATHAM: NEIGE D'ANTAN (The Snow of Former Times)
Caty Latham
First issued: AW1989
Reissues: AW1991, AW2002
Other issues: AW1991 GM cashmere, AW200 70 cotton, AW2001 PM cashmere.
Versions: Neige d'Antan II AW2001

As Christmas is coming, I wanted to welcome the season with the profile of a Christmas themed scarf. There were several scarves which may have fitted this purpose, being the most iconic ones Noel au 24 Faubourg by Dimitri Rybalchenko and Neige d'Antan by Caty Latham, but I finally decided to review the last one as it is a perfect example of vintage Christmas.

I'm posting detail pictures of different color ways, the ice blue one is from 1991 and the black bordered is from 1989 both of them are from my collection, the turquoise and the royal blue ones are from Lanit's collection, thank you dear friend!

The central motive is set into a square created by two pairs of wooden skis with antique leather bindings and many Christmas symbols, such like holly tree:

Lovely and meaningful mistletoe: According to ancient Christmas tradition, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. The custom may be of Scandinavian origin. It was described in 1820 by American author Washington Irving in his "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon":

"The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases."

Frosty, fernlike crystal patterns:

The central image of the scarf presents a couple of Belle Epoque jumping skiers in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, they are holding a red sign with the title of the scarf. The clothes that they are wearing are particularly interesting, just imaging jump skiing with a skirt!

Where did Caty Latham's  inspiration come from for the central motive? Take a look at this poster of Chamonix Mont-Blanc, circa 1900 by Tamagno:

The four borders of the scarf are even more beautiful than the center, they depict charming winter scenes that gives us many hints about how people from 1900s got dressed for winter sports:

The evolution of ski wear has brought about several new technologies over the last century. When downhill skiing took off as a recreational sport in the early 1900s, women wore wool skirts and men wore riding breeches. In the 40s and 50s, it was common for people to wear garments made from wool or even tweed coats and hats tailored specifically for skiing. In the 1950s, with the onset of downhill ski races, the mountains attracted more people. During the 50s and 60s, skiers wore sweaters and wool coats and women wore thin leggings. Patterns included plaid, argyle and Icelandic prints. Hounds tooth was a popular print in the 70s, as were nylon suits and puffy jackets.

Let me show you the 1900s ski fashion catwalk:

The scarf might take its name from The Ballade des dames du temps jadis ("Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past"), a poem by François Villon which celebrates famous women in history and mythology. Particularly famous is its interrogative refrain, Mais où sont les neiges d'antan? This was translated into English by Rossetti as "Where are the snows of yesteryear?", for which he coined the new word yesteryear to translate Villon's antan.

There is something intriguing about the different issues of this scarf regarding the brand name signature, the first issue of 1989 came out without the grave accent and the copyright close to the brand name, while the reissues of 1991 and 2002 had it accented and the copyright is somewhere else.
Although is commonly assumed that all the Hermès scarves have the brand name accented, there are other designs that feature this characteristic (Les Robes by Ledoux in the newest reissues comes now to my mind).


Those of you who are closer to me know that Dickens has become a key figure in my life lately, that's why I'd like to end this entry with a quotation from The Pickwick Papers:

"Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away".

May Christmas spread cheer in your lives!

PS: My dear friend Bonnie, emailed me this picture of her beautiful Bonbon "wearing" Neige d'Antan, have you ever seen a chicest dog? Thank you Bonnie and Bonbon!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Natsuno Hidaka
First issued: 2002
Reissues: 2007 for Opera Carolina (in two color ways, see below)
Catalogued 3B

(Original 1926 poster)

This post is dedicated to Ricardo Depine, a dear friend who can't help crying every time he sees a Puccini's opera.

As an opera enthusiast, I'm very happy to present the profile of this beautiful scarf inspired in the homonymous work by Giacomo Puccini. Turandot was his posthumous opera, a master work in three acts set to a libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni whose first representation took place at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25, 1926, one year and five months after Puccini's death.

Let me present a very brief plot of this beautiful love story, unlike most of the operas, Turandot has a happy although controversial ending.

In Peking's Imperial Palace, the fatally beautiful Princess Turandot receives unlucky suitors from far and wide, who must answer three riddles to win her hand—or die. Calaf, son of the exiled King Timur of Tartary, is struck with Turandot's beauty, and ignoring protests from his father and Liù, the servant girl who loves him, he matches wits with the princess. Although he guesses the three riddles, Calaf offers his life to Turandot if she can discover his secret name. Searching the city in vain, the princess finally tortures faithful Liù, driving her to suicide. Faced with Liù's sacrifice and Calaf's stern devotion, Turandot crumbles, and weeping in Calaf's arms, she declares that his secret name is Love.

Why is Turandot's ending controversial? Let's see: Puccini died in 1924 before completing Turandot, and the score was finished by his student Franco Alfano in 1926. Even though Puccini had left notes for the final scenes, Alfano did his own thing — and his ending has been performed ever since. But the story is not over yet: Luciano Berio, one of Italy's leading composers, came up with his own, very different ending. Berio's version was sanctioned by the Puccini estate, and after trial runs in the Canary Islands, Amsterdam and Los Angeles, it was performed in 2002 at the Salzburg Festival... it's amazing, isn't it?

The scarf itself presents the main characters of the opera on the central medallion under the scarf title, they are Turandot and Calaf, sitting together and playing their singular Russian roulette-type game of enigmas, the figures have the classic hieratical features of human representation in Chinese art as well as formal, royal attires which symbolize their dignity. The symbols found on Chinese robes indicate to the viewer the status of the individual who would have worn the garment. Symbolism denotes social standing, moral messages, and also tells historical and legendary stories.

Turandot has a fairytale-style atmosphere in all its sets and therefore the staging is absolutely superb. The themes brilliantly composed by Puccini, evoke an exotic oriental sound with ceremonial melodies throughout the opera. The atmosphere is grim and terrible and the stage is decorated with imperial pomp.  The central medallion of the scarf represents the Gong, which has a decisive role during the opera announcing the doom of men.

Natsuno Hidaka was able to capture the essence of oriental art and imperial pomp in this scarf. The whole surface is covered in an intricate work of geometric patterns splashed with other vegetal and zoomorphic motives.

The dragon symbolizes the adaptability of the emperor and his willingness to change laws according to the needs of his people. This could be due to the link the dragon has with the changing of the seasons. The dragon is a very important symbol associated with the spring and symbolizes transformation and productive force. In the spring the dragon ascends to the skies, and in autumn, it buries itself in the watery depths. It covers itself with mud in the autumnal equinox, and emerges in the spring, thus announcing by its awakening the return of nature's energies. The Chinese dragon was on every court robe and the dragon itself symbolized imperial power. 

There are many other symbols represented on this master piece of chinoiserie, the Crane (symbol of longevity), the Lion (symbol of success), the Tortoise (symbol of perseverance)  and Butterflies (symbol of joy and summer)

Our dear blog friend Mitchin, posted some new info about the symbols displayed on the scarf:

"I was just wondering about the animals you've described, that are located in the corners of the scarf. I thought that they were representing the 4 gods/seasons/elements in Chinese culture: The Phoenix, which is associated with summer, fire element and the South. The Tiger, associated with autumn, air element and the West. The Dragon, associated with spring, water element and the East and the Tortoise, associated with winter, earth element and the North".

(Thank you, Mitchin for the input.)

In Turandot there is evil, sadism, revenge, hatred... But there is also hope, love, nobility and sacrifice. The entire work symbolizes the victory of love over hatred, the victory of goodness over extreme evilIt embodies the hope over the bitter end.
Turandot tells us that even in a fable, which occurred in a remote time, the hatred has never triumphed over love.
And perhaps the last great mystery of Turandot is just how it manages to seduce almost a century after its premiere, forever in a captivating fairy tale that we can hardly leave without seeing the final conclusion

Opera Carolina couldn't have chosen a better scarf to celebrate their anniversary in 2007 and we, scarf lovers, are forever grateful they decided to do so. This is the other color way Hermès made for the reissue:

And a collage to show different color ways of this marvelous scarf:

Booklet from the 2002 edition:

The most famous aria of Turandot is unquestionably "Nessun Dorma" (Third Act). It has been performed by all the important singers since 1926. Although Luciano Pavarotti is by far the most popular performer of this aria, I wanted to finish this post with the performance of another singer, the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling (1911-1960) whose live representation in 1944 was completed in such slow tempo that when Pavarotti was asked about it, he said: "Oh no, please! I'm only human!" He was right, Björling's performance takes 4 minutes , one minute longer than any other average performance ever made... just impossible! 

Other designs by this Natsuno Hidaka:

Lumieres de Paris 2006
L'Heure du Printemps 2006
Ballade de Heian 2009
Esprit Ainou 2011

According with LuxuryScarves, there are other designs by Hidaka whose dates are unfortunately unknown:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Maurice Tranchant
First issued: 1956
Reissues: 1998, 1999 (mousse gavroche), 2005
Catalogued 3B

Today's post is especially dedicated to my dear friend Hclub because she is an adoring fan of this beautiful design and she is going through a tough time right now. I know she'll enjoy this entry and hopefully it will  put a big smile on her face. 
We both felt in love with L'Art d'Ecrire when we saw Kelly Rutherford wearing it on Gossip Girl (season 1, episode 9), and since then we have shared a mutual love for it.

L'Art d'Ecrire, The art of writing, refers us to calligraphy: The art of producing artistic, stylized, or elegant handwriting or lettering.
The word calligraphy is derived from the Greek words 
'killi' and 'graphos', meaning "beautiful" and "writing".

The art of calligraphy as we know it today, finds its origins in cave paintings. As humans developed, the art of drawing pictures became quite highly developed and reached great heights under the direction of the Egyptians, who created the highly stylized hieroglyphics.
A few thousand years later, around 1000 BC, the Phoenicians went a step further and developed one of the first alphabets and writing systems. Being sea faring types, Phoenicians passed along their new skills to every seaport where they went. They influenced the Greeks who developed their own form of writing which by 850 BC the Romans adapted to suit the Latin language.

Latin was the lingua franca of the churches of Europe in the Middle Ages and the monks constituted the only literate members of society, they began to carefully scribe ancient texts into decorative books used by high-ranking church members and nobility members. Paper was expensive during the Middle Ages, so scribing monks developed a writing style that was narrower allowing more words to fit on a single line. This style came to be known as Gothic and lasted as a popular scribing technique throughout much of the Middle Ages.

By the mid-15th century, however, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press based upon the Gothic lettering of the monks. This new technique allowed  faster printing of Bibles and threatened the métier of the monks. Although the use of the printing press spred worldwide, handwriting skills were still in high demand. As the arts bloomed during Europe's Renaissance, so did the art of calligraphy. The italic script was invented in Italy, and became popular throughout most of Europe. 

One of the most special things about today's scarf is to know more about Maurice Tranchant's source of inspiration for this design. We find out as soon as we take a look at the center of the scarf:

In fact, Tranchant virtually transferred into silk the treatise "L’Art d’écrire réduit à des démonstrations vraies et faciles...", included in the Diderot and D’Alembert Encyclopedia.

Denis Diderot (October 1713 – July 1784) was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent persona during the Enlightenment and is best-known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie.

This stand alone volume of the Encyclopedia is a brief booklet of about 43 pages with 16 plates or illustrations, some of them are the exact source of Maurice Tranchant's inspiration:

Let's have a look at plates 2 y 3: "Materials and Correct Position to write for Men" and "Materials and Correct Position to write for Women". According to a survey conducted in 1877, 63% of the spouses were unable to sign their marriage certificate, it's no wonder then that a whole volume of the Encyclopedia was devoted to this subject.

... And so on... From plates 4, 5 and 6 Tranchant got the illustrations about how to burnish and cut a quill, how to hold the quill different approaches and Traces and joints:

He also transferred the samples of lettering from plates 14, 15 and 16:

You can conclude that Maurice Tranchant was not a creative genius in designing this scarf as all the illustrations were copied from L'Encyclopedia. Anyway, L'Art d'Ecrire is one of the most beautiful scarves produced by Hermès and a very sought after design, it's a perfect gift for a graduation and a key piece of any classic wardrobe. I'm the lucky owner of two of them, a carré 90 and a 45 gavroche:

Other Tranchant's designs are: 

Les Amorureux de Paris 1951 
Ispahan 1966
Les Jardiniers du Roi 1967
Carrelages 1968
Grotte de Versailles 1969 
Pavements 1970
Romantique 1973
Chanteclair 1974
Chanteclair II 1974
Imagerie 1974


I send a big hug to my dear friend Hclub wishing her lots of sunny days and beautiful things in her near future.