The A-Z of Hermès Carrés
How well do you know the House’s treasured silk squares? jacquie ang takes you on a journey of (re)discovery
A for Artists
The late Hermès CEO Robert Dumas tapped creative talents including German commercial poster artist Hugo Grygkar and French book illustrator Philippe Ledoux, whose names became intrinsically linked to the luxury house. In 2003, Dumas’ grandson Pierre-alexis invited fashion designer Bali Barret to design the seminal Soie Belle collection. Three years later, she would be entrusted with the artistic direction of women’s silk.
B for Brides de Gala
The most iconic of Hermès’ designs was born in 1957 when Hugo Grygkar placed two bridles, facing each other on the floor, to create a perfect composition that’s understated yet impeccably elegant. The cult carré expresses Hermès first vocation as a saddler and harnessmaker — “One can almost hear the creak of the leather bridles, the clink of the metal parts”, described JeanLouis Dumas — with reissues in an array of updates through the years.
C for Carré
The word means “square” in French, which is also the name Hermès christens its scarves, usually in 90 x 90cm. In 2007, Hermès introduced the smaller Carré 70. Measuring 70 x 70cm, the carré came in vintage silk for a lived-in feeling that evoked a cherished security blanket.
D for Design
Since the birth of the first carré in 1937, 2,000 designs have been dreamt up at Hermès to date, with around 30 released every year to tell new stories.
E for Engraving
Bent over a light box, the engraver traces each colour, one by one, on a transparent film placed on a mock-up. A design composed of 30 colours requires between 400 and 600 hours of engraving.
F for Finishing
The final step to a carré is also what distinguishes it. Executed by hand, the roulotté is the “French style” rolled hem that requires seamstresses to roll the edges on the right side of the scarf delicately, and hem with a silk thread in an identical colour to the border. An experienced roulotteuse takes 45mins to execute this meticulous operation.
G for Gavroche
A small carré of 45 x 45cm in silk twill, it was inspired by men’s pocket handkerchiefs.
H for Harmonies
Armed with a chart comprising 75,000 hues accumulated over the seasons, colourists propose palettes for designs to be produced in
10 or so different harmonies, going through several trials before achieving the winning combinations. Along with suggestions, they also provide the formula to attain the nuances, and the recipe for each hue (the exact proportion of pigments and binder).
I for Indispensable
Think of the carré as fashion’s Swiss army knife. Its usefulness and versatility are boundless — it can be worn as a bib while you change out of a stained shirt on a plane, or knotted around a man’s neck as a tie to meet the dress code in a fine dining restaurant. The myriad ways to style Hermès’ host of carrés ensure you never run out of wardrobe options.
J for Jeu des Omnibus et des Dames Blanches
Hermès introduced its first carré Jeu des Omnibus et des Dames Blanches in 1937. Drawing inspiration from an 1800s board game from Émile Hermès’ collection of antiques, the design illustrates the inauguration of the Parisian public omnibus line from Madeleine to Bastille with horse-drawn vehicles encircling a central medallion featuring well-dressed men and women at the game table, with the words, “a good player never loses his temper”, above.
K for Knotting Cards
A pack of cards offering ideas accompanied with step-by-step guides for tying a carré.
L for Losange
Launched in 1999, this carré comes in the shape of a lozenge cut on the diagonal, available in a single colour or in print.
M for Moth
One silk moth of the Bombyx mori species produces enough raw silk filament to weave one carré. The female moth lays around 300 eggs (called “grains”) to produce as many silkworms. They devour two bushes of mulberry leaves, before weaving their cocoons that will yield 450km of silk thread for one carré.
N for Name
Each carré has a name that often forms an integral part of the original design.
O for Orange
“From the beginning, the Hermès carré was imagined as an object, and not as an accessory,” explains Pierre-alexis. “It is an object perfectly composed and autonomous, which can suffice on its own.” Every carré comes in the orange box so emblematic of the brand.
P for Prize
Equipped with an innovative technique that automatically determines the quantity of colour for print according to the area to be coloured, the Maison efficiently reduces wastage of colouring materials and water consumption. This respect for the environment earned Hermès the first prize for Economic and Clean Technology at the Pollutec fair in Lyon in 2002.
Q for Queen
Titania, queen of the fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, makes an appearance on Édouard Baribeaud’s carré design, Acte III, scène I, La Clairière. She is depicted falling in love under the moonlight in a magical forest, a scene that pays homage to baroque theatre, Indian miniatures and early cinema.