Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès
Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès—see the Jamdani stole on the right
Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès—closeup of the stole
Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès—another spread in the same catalogue
Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès—a beautiful warm toned stole with what looks like orange embroidery
Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès—the beautiful model
Holy Grails—aka the elusive pieces that taunt our dreams, spawn our nightmares, and when found, are pure magic.
Also known as: unicorns.
It would be hard to be interested in Hermès without soon developing a set of the holy grails. Mine started quickly. The first was the raspberry color of Jeu des Omnibus, which was displayed in Madison in April 2008 but all sold out when I asked. I stalked the resale sights and bided my time until, finally, one appeared when I was able to purchase it. It remains one of my favorite pieces, and just looking at it brings me joy.
The raspberry Jeu des Omnibus, however, was an easy sort of grail; given enough time, one was bound to come up. Often this sort of easy grail comes attached to a higher-than-retail cost, but so be it. You pay or you don’t—and in the meantime, you keep your eyes open for grails in the making as the new season’s pieces start appearing. You don’t want to miss out yet again . . .
But this post is about the most exceptional of grails—i.e., the ones you don’t dare breathe a word about for fear of jinxing.
I have several of these exceptional grails, and I try not to think about them. They don’t appear often, and sometimes never. I sense that these are traded around on the private yahoo sites, much like how I try to pass along pieces to collectors at tPF or even here at AA. And so I try to keep my list small. Maybe a handful of desires, no more—and I promise never to quibble about details like price. I either want it or not, can either have it or not.
Jamdani stole by Hermès in Ivoire/Brun . . . never worn
Jamdani stole by Hermès — the information booklet
Jamdani stole by Hermès — the story of the weaving process
One of these exceptional grails appeared a few weeks ago—a stole. Really, a classic duputta. This scarf was one of the unusual offerings during the Year of India, and while it was mentioned a handful of times on tPF, pictures do not survive. The scarf book featured it twice, and the arrow struck me when I saw it back in 2008. The Jamdani Stole of the finest cotton and silk mousseline.
I nearly wept when I saw it, not least of which because I didn’t live near a boutique (I was in central Iowa at the time), nor could I have afforded it. Jamdani was one of the few weaving technique that escaped my research during the year in India. I saw some examples that were wildly out of my price range, but I did not go deep enough into Bengal to find a craftsman from whom I could acquire a piece. This is one of those techniques that haunted me for a long, long time—a whole decade by the time Hermès brought out this piece. It was exceedingly rare and exceedingly refined. The look is often simple, but that’s deceptive—the skill needed to weave in by hand these extra threads without the surrounding thread structure changing is so high I simply cannot fathom it. Jamdani is a textile for the aristocracy. It has been defined by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The Jamdani stole spread out . . . it sits on a treasured Rajasthani block-printed cotton muslin blanket also from India (the last of four I’ve used for well over a decade)
This stole is a piece I never thought I would find. I barely even breathed my wish all those years ago, so impossible it seemed to acquire. I believe it comes in the warm peach-ish/gold color way, the ivory that I have, and a blue. There might be more. To say I dream of having all three . . . is an understatment.
Jamdani stole by Hermès—detail
Jamdani stole by Hermès—detail
When this suddenly appeared on the well-known pre-owned site, my entire body were numb. I didn’t believe it—like, really didn’t believe it. I dug into a crawl space for my stack of scarf catalogues and start flipping. Yep. There it was, in the back of Spring-Summer 2008. The exact same stole stared at me from the listing. I still couldn’t believe it. I breathed, then breathed some more. Finally I clicked. Quickly I paid. It arrived today, a couple weeks later.
Slipping the Jamdani on . . .
This stole might be one of the least ornate scarves I own, whether compared to my Hermès or my Indian textile collection. I have nothing like it—because I don’t have another piece of Jamdani. This is one of the larger stoles Hermès produces, so it is quite overwhelming. The dimensions make it a true duputta, which is traditionally worn with the center covering the front of the body and the ends hanging over the shoulders and down the back. The duputta is also worn as a head covering, especially in the glaring light of the desert, a protection I often availed myself of when exploring Gujarati and Rajasthani tribal areas. I imagine it was made this size because of the looms used to weave them.
To speak of this piece’s preciousness to me . . . exceeds my skills with language. I thank the fairies who made my wish come true.
The oddest thing is how this piece is part of a moment in my collecting. Over the past few weeks, several key scarves have found their way to me. And this is in advance of a highly anticipated scarf season at Hermès. My scarf coffers are exploding with treasures. This is the first—and most definitely the most precious.
Stay tuned for more . . .