Hermès silk scarves can be read in a multitude of ways. Woven metaphors give free rein to the imagination. The eye grazes a myriad of colours, glides around abstract shapes, or passes through exquisite gardens and enchanted lands, on the lookout for an often cleverly concealed detail. The stories they tell transport us into a permanent otherworldliness. The illustration is the departure point for every creation and every composition. A new genre of bestiary, levitating equestrian objects, graphic sketches in bright colours, an abundance of tropical plant life… on silk, it all comes together and to life. Blank canvasses ready to receive a multitude of expressive forms, the Hermès silk scarves are style objects that marry exceptional know-how with technical innovation.
A deep dive into the manufacturing of Hermès’ Silk Scarves:
What looks like an exquisite piece of art, gracefully places wrapped around its owner, trots a long way before it’s reaching the final product. Around two years pass between the initial meeting with an artist and the arrival of the scarf in Hermès stores. Forty people with specific and complementary skills are involved in the manufacturing process. With over 800 employees, the house masters all aspects of textile expertise, right from manufacturing to weaving, engraving, dyeing and finishing.
As the house continues to be one of the biggest and best sellers in the global market for silk scarves, we take a deeper dive into how the these delicate artistic pieces gain form, right from the stories they tell to the fashion statement they impart to the wearer.
The original full-size design is sent to the engraving workshop to be reproduced on a digital tablet and broken down into as many films as there are colours in the design. This extremely meticulous step required several hundred house of work— 600 on average. Over a large light table, the designer-engravers use a stylus to reproduce each pencil stroke, even the very light ones, as well as its texture effects, gradients and shadows, remaining faithful to the artist’s hand, and working at the level of a single pixel. The engraver’s art involves interpreting the nuances of the design and translating them into colour combinations that will determine the number of printing screen necessary.
In the screen-printing process, there is a screen for each film and therefore, each colour. The screen is a metal frame with a polyester gauze stretched across it. The mesh count of this gauze is measured in microns and varies depending on the design and the fabric to be printed.
The Gauze is coated with a layer of photosensitive gelatine.
Next, it is exposed to strong ultraviolet light to harden the gelatine, allowing the colour to pass through only in the areas corresponding to the lines of the design.
The fabric— a cashmere and silk blend or silk twill— is stretched over printing tables 150 meter long, to prevent the material from moving thereby avoiding any distortion in the design.
The screen follow one after another, despoiling one additional colour each time. There are no fewer than four printers working at each table. This is the traditional “flat-screen” or “à la lyonnaise” printing technique.
The printing start with the “finesse”, or the outline.
Next come the “rentrures”,filling in the areas from the smallest to largest and from the dark to the light shades.
As the screens pass over the material, the colours are revealed and the design comes to life.
Once printed, the length of the silk is hung up to dry. It will undergo several more operations; colour-fixing, washing and drying, performed flat on a hot-air mat. The piece then passes into the hands of the artisans who will carry out the finishing treatments, cutting and edge-rolling.
The edge, hand-rolled “à la française”, is a finish that symbolises the uniqueness of the Hermès scarf. The edges are delicately rolled from the outside in, then stitched by hand, with the corners in perfect right angles.
Each stage of manufacturing undergoes strict quality control.The house is committed to preserving the artisanal dimension of manufacturing its printed silk and cashmere objects, which ensures durability, creativity, agility and innovation.
//Photographs by Sophie Tajan