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Friday, 30 December 2011

Silk Scarf Fashion Return

You know how, long ago, you assumed you had to feel mature before you had children? That's how it is for me with silk scarves.

It's Grace Kelly's fault. I don't know if it's an actual syndrome, but whenever I see a picture of her, within hours I find myself in the vicinity of a silk scarf counter. It's almost Pavlovian. Make that Chekhovian. There's rarely a happy ending to my silk-scarf encounters.

Cashmere and wool scarves I can do. Blankets? Bring them on. I've acquired excellent draping skills. But the dressier version I've never mastered. You know how, long ago, you assumed you had to feel mature before you had children? That's how it is for me with silk scarves.

I've tried the Demi Moore-in-happier-times bandana approach, the Hugh Jackman neckerchief, the Marilyn Monroe headscarf and the leave-it-dangling-either-side-of-the- neck-and-hope-for-the-best-look. It's no go. Most of these attempts never get as far as the front door. The few that did made me feel like Terry-Thomas.

In the end, I took pity on the biggest and most beautiful designs and framed them. There's a wall in my house that looks terrific in scarves. But not me.

hermes scarf

fashion silk scarves

I don't think I'm alone. Scarves are the recession-busters of the fashion world. Since Liberty devoted a whole department to them in its revamp two years ago, sales have risen 12 per cent. Harrods has also expanded its range. A resurgence of interest in print must have helped - many of London's most creative, least traditional designers now produce silk scarves, as do the high street chains. And they're especially popular at Christmas. Selfridges reports sales up 200 per cent this month.

You rarely see anyone wearing them though, do you? That may be about to change because last week I visited Hermès pop-up scarf shop in Harrods. I've always been sceptical about pop-up anything - but this was scarves. By Hermès. And there only until January 3. Obviously, a visit was required.

silk scarf fashion

Fashion scarf styles

The main selling points, apart from the gazillion patterns and the Grace Kelly link, were Jade and Stuart, two stylish British art-school grads employed by Hermès to think up 500 (plus) things to do with a scarf. These include turning it into a chunky necklace by tying three strategically placed knots in a smallish square, turning it into a bracelet (tying knots into a tiny one), wearing a big one as a sarong, a halter neck top, or a dress, wrapping it around the handles of your bag or turning your lapdog into a lookey-likey Paris Hilton lapdog by giving it a cravat (apparently the Hermès Twilly, its smallest scarf, at £95, is all the rage in the canine world this season). But for me, the square de triomphe was the lovely, big, colourful squashy hob-style Hermès bag Jade made out of one of the largest scarves. Forget the usual three grand you kiss goodbye when investing in Hermès arm candy. This bag is yours for the price of a scarf.

Although the bag option requires the largest Hermès scarf (120cm x120cm), it turns out to be the simplest to execute. You take two diametrically opposite corners, tie them and pull up the ends; then do the same with the two remaining corners and…well, it's tricky to explain, but try it and you'll see how easy it is. Even I can do it.

Hermès handbag sells for £129,865 Admittedly, it didn't have a lining, internal pockets, key fobs or a secret compartment for your laptop, but it's the Kate Moss of bags - excellent on a beach holiday, not quite so good in the office. Did I mention that the large Hermès scarves cost £750? Mind you, it's not written in stone that it has to be Hermès. Obviously, the colours are rich and saturated, the silk densely woven and the patterns infinite in their variety, from classic to psychedelic or graffitied. But since last week, I've had quite some success with an excellent little silk scarf from Oasis that I discovered in my drawer.

One tip is to fold it properly so that it doesn't slide apart on your neck like some gaping, garish wound. The secret is to fold towards the middle rather than roll it. And the more you use your scarf, the softer and more pliable the silk becomes. It's warm, too - perfect with an open-necked shirt. So there you are, my final tip for Christmas: a silk scarf. Not a boring present at all.

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