Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Favorite Mistake

Well, since Plumcake already outed me, I guess I'd better spill. Here's what I brought home from Paris:

I went on this trip determined to bring back two souvenirs, one each from London and Paris. My London item was another bottle of one of my Top Three perfumes, Tolu by Ormonde Jayne, about which I have spoken here before.

The other one was an Hermes scarf.

The scarf design is called "Jeu des Omnibuses et Dames Blanches." It was the very first design ever made into an Hermes scarf in 1928, and has been reissued several times in different colorways. (I'd love to see what the original looked like, if anyone knows how to get that info.) I'd seen the scarf in a magazine advertisement in the black and white colorway and was very taken with its graphic quality, but when I got to the boutique the scarf (carré, as they're sometimes known) revealed itself to have a background of mostly light gray, which is a color I try to never, ever wear next to my face. So the nice SA smiled and brought out this one. This is a vintage carré, which means it's a little smaller than the regular ones -- 70 x 70 cm instead of 90 x 90.

The detail on these things are really phenomenal -- these scarves are works of art, and if you do a little research on the interwebs (which I did), you'll discover that if kept in good condition they never depreciate. They're like buying jewelry. They get mentioned in peoples' wills. They never go out of style. It doesn't matter what size you are, they will always fit. These are just a few of the justifications I came up with for dropping a wad of cash on what is basically a big square of fabric.

I've been really doing more of the scarf thing in the last year or so, brought about mainly by four trips to Paris in the last three years. I have some great ones that I got from my mom & grandma, some nice vintage finds, and I've treated myself to a couple of Ferragamos from the outlet near here. I have friends who say they never wear scarves because it makes them feel sort of mumsy and frumpy, but when you see the way Parisian women pull it off it puts a whole new spin on things. Watch enough of these creatures walk past with various knots and bows across necks and collarbones and shoulders, and suddenly a big printed square of silk fabric tied about your person in some manner seems an absolute requirement for style and a signifier of chic.

It's also a great way to disguise your tourist status. Tie an Hermes scarf around your neck and put away your plan de Paris and it's almost a guarantee that before you know it people will be speaking blazing fast French to you whether you want them to or not. (Of course, if you still insist on wearing bright white tennis shoes and a sweatshirt embroidered with the name of your alma mater, you can be wrapped head toe to in Hermes scarves and it's not going to help. Make an effort, people.) That's what happened to me, anyway. It was flattering but disconcerting at times. "Je suis desolée, madame, votre francais est trop vite pour moi," is now a phrase that rolls off my tongue pretty easily.

Like I said, these are expensive little shmattes. And you can get them in the duty-free sections of the airport, but I believe that the money you don't save buying it at the boutique is paying for the absolutely delightful experience of walking into one of the most historic and exclusive fashion houses in Paris and knowing you're about to make a purchase.

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And the scarf counter is particularly lovely -- it runs a long distance down one side of the main room, and there is an army of black-clad SAs waiting to unfurl these beauties and spread them on the counter for you, to knot them around your neck, to hold them up to your face and cock their heads as they consider the color against your skin. One of the things I love about Paris is that customer service jobs (especially in high-end establishments) are not taken quite so lightly as they are here; they're not merely placeholder jobs that you do while you're finishing up college, they're careers. And so behind the scarf counter you see all sorts of people, from young men who couldn't be more than 23 to older women who've obviously been doing this a good long time and have now forgotten more about scarves and chic than I will ever even know. All dressed in black, bien sûr. And beautifully accessorized.

So I wore my scarf around Paris and I was very happy and then it came time to leave Paris and that's when some sort of madness struck me. It's a familiar madness, mind you, but no less dangerous for that.

I didn't have trouble getting to the airport the morning I left, despite the transit strike that was going on. From Saint Germain in a taxi it only took me about 40 minutes. Going the other direction, however, as all the folks who live in the Parisian suburbs and work in the city (and there are lots; like Manhattan, Paris is physically a very small city with lots of commuters) tried to get to work without the benefit of commuter trains, it was a complete nightmare. My cab driver, who spoke an interesting and entertaining combination of English, French, and Chinese (Franglese?) told me that according to reports from the other cabbies, he was looking at a three-hour drive to get back into town. And because of whatever rules & regulations are imposed on cabbies, he was not permitted to pick up a fare at the airport. So fully half his day was spent on one fare -- moi. I felt pretty crummy about this and made sure I tipped him.

Charles de Gaulle was the usual madness and crush of tourists, many of whose luggage situations made me feel like my enormous Samsonite (the Beast) was traveling light. (Seriously -- some of these people could have attached engines to their suitcases and driven them to wherever they were going.) Alas, my flight was delayed. And yet -- even though my plane was not boarding until two hours later than its originally scheduled time, they were closing the check-in line an hour before the original flight time. So I stood in line for 45 minutes and checked the Beast and was told that they couldn't re-book my connecting flight in Houston from this counter (I decided not to press the matter by saying something like, "Um, why not? Is your computer an underachiever?") (I was re-booked very quickly & efficiently a short time later by a very helpful clerk at the gate who was very nice to me while muttering under her breath the whole time -- in English and French -- about the stupidity of the people in the front of the airport. Makes me wonder if there's some sort of front-of-house/back-of-house rivalry that goes on and results in rumbles on the jetways late at night. Probably not.)

Long story short (oh, like that ever happens around here...), it was now about 10:30 in the morning and my plane was not due to board until three hours later and I was loose in Charles de Gaulle airport with too much time, a head slightly fuzzy from lack of sleep, and a credit card in my wallet.

I don't know if you've ever been in CDG airport. I've only been in the part of the terminal where American airlines fly people in & out of the US and it is actually a pretty unpleasant place. It's old & rundown and just generally not very inviting. The way they make up for that is to plop a panorama of delicious duty-free shopping smack in the middle of this florescent-and-linoleum hinterland. Lots of duty-free, from places like Galeries Lafayette and Longchamp... and Hermes.

As I walked past the Hermes boutique I beheld a classic scene: a well-suited French man carrying a briefcase, choosing a scarf for someone. He was very particular. It was taking a while to find just the right color in just the right design. There was a dune of silk piled up on the top of the display case. Like a child walking past a candy counter, I couldn't resist. All those beautiful colors were just beckoning to me...

Not too much later, there was this:

This one is called Jardin d'Hiver (Winter Garden) and the detail in this design is spectacular. Click on theses photos to get the larger version so that you can really see what's going on in this scarf.

And so. Here ends my tale of overspending. Actually, it doesn't end here, or I should say I fear it won't. Because I've discovered a wonderful site that is only going to feed my newest obsession, and look what I found there:

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I must have it. I MUST! It's my Shine on a scarf!!! Look!

The pattern is called Cave Felem, and if anyone knows where I can get one...

See? See? Oh, I'm in trouble...

Photos: Style Spy, FashionWireDaily.com, Luxury-Scarves.com

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Unknown said...

Love your blog! Rose

Poochie said...

Now you need to show some fabulous ways to wear your scarves. I have an Hermes scarf from an old flame - back when I was too young to even appreciate or really know what I was getting. I've kept the lovely pink, white, grey and black scarf in it's lovely orange box lo these past 11 years.

It's still in perfect condition but I rarely wear it. I need some inspiration!

Of course, now I want an orange Hermes scarf, but haven't picked a pattern. Perhaps I'll wait until my next trip to Paris.


rosarita said...

Ohhh, so beautiful! I collect scarves and an Hermes scarf is my ultimate dream. Thanks for sharing!

benvenuta said...

I agree. You NEED that scarf with kitty on it.
The winter garden scar is breathtaking. I envy you!

Anonymous said...

Color me extremely style ignorant but truly interested in vanquishing said ignorance. What makes a Hermes scarf special? How do they make them with such detail? I'm sure there are special processes used to make them---what are they? Is each scarf one-of-a-kind?


Anonymous said...

AWE I am so happy for you. I just moon over scarves. This I did get from my Mother, who by the way just told me on my recent birthday and with tons of anger that,"she gave me her life ,her career , everything, as she had to walk the floors with me as a baby." And,could not resume her career for years , why I add this is odd . Because it is one of few ,of the things she gave to me the love of painted silk & high fashion. By the way if you think ,her comment was strange , think about this...she adopted me? I guess she lost the receipt?
Amy I am so happy to see you collecting high art. I adore #1 with much oohing & awing when I saw it. But I guessed something big & good was coming with you alone in CdeG. And mon dieu you delievered. have tears of joy ,while looking at it SO much happiness it is yours! Maybe I will get my paint brush going and do a copy of Shine's scarf you photographed she would like a copy you think? k

blackbird said...

The Hermes website is okay for research and purchase. (Note that I said 'okay.')
Ebay is a fun place to browse...

Hand rolled edges. Gets me every time.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my Goodness. I have three Hermes scarves now. There will possibly be a fourth this Christmas if the money falls right.
The Web site is a find.

Unknown said...

Oooh! Ooh! I love Hermes more than I do most people!

Now that you have your scarves, you MUST order the book, darling:


Joy said...

If you search for "Hermes scarf Cave Felem" on ebay long enough, you will find a seller and will be able to get that scarf inspired by your cat. A warning though... there are times when that particular design has been very popular and prices have gone sky high ($450+). However, recently prices for Cave Felem have moderated so you should do ok. Best of luck... I love your blog AND your cat!!!

Kristin Ohlson said...

I'm so very unfashionable that I'm almost embarrassed to post here. But after two weeks in Italy and swooning over the scarves, I came back to the US with intense scarf envy. Then had to spend hours in JFK, laying over, and wandered into the Hermes store there. And become so smitten with the Hermes Winter Garden (the googling of which led me to your post)that I feel I must have it-- some day.

Anyway, I certainly enjoy your blog!

Celisa and Dan said...

Did my last comment post? I'm not sure! If you haven't found your 'Cave Felem' scarf yet I have one! Make me an offer. It's never been worn and in perfect condition!!!

StyleSpy said...

Celisa and Dan - send me an e-mail at shine @ austin . rr. com and we'll talk!