Grail Search—Part Three (Arabesques)

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl in a copper shot with purple

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl in a copper shot with purple

If you don’t know, my handle on the Purse Forum is arabesques.  Because of that, a few people think I once studied or performed ballet (arabesques is a standard move with the ballet repertoire).  The inspiration for the handle actually came from another art form: the decorative arts, wherein the arabesque denotes an ornamental design of scrolling, intertwined lines often of foliage and flowers.  This was a design tradition I knew quite well because of my first full-time job during college—a designer of Oriental carpets.

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—closer

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—closer

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—look at that lovely soft detailing

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—look at that lovely soft detailing

I learned early in my Hermès collecting of the Arabesques scarf design.  I don’t know much about it, just that I see it all the time in the 90cm twill.  It’s an über classic design, often sporting gold scrolling work and the strong blue, red, green, and burgundy colors.  Sometimes I see it in a hot pink that sets my pulse racing, but an über classic scarf is a hard thing to pull off.  So when Jan at Its-All-Goode landed this gem of a change ant mousseline GM, I was captivated.

It took a while to finally decide—changeants are notoriously difficult to capture in pictures.  Would it even look decent on me?  I have neutral coloring, so both warm and cool colors can work, but every bronze/copper scarf I’ve tried on at H has gotten a no-no-no shake from MP and friends.  But I talked to Jan (who is amazing, as I’ve written before), and I took the plunge.  When it arrived, I was overjoyed.

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—center, laid out

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—center, laid out

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the flowers radiating from the center

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the flowers radiating from the center

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the title element

Hermès mousseline Arabesques changeant shawl—the title element

This is a simple scarf, almost delicate even.  I find that the mousse rendition matches the arabesque pattern very well.  There’s something often fragile about a European arabesque, as if we’re attracted to the light and heat and sharp contrast of the Middle Eastern and Indian sun—but all the same, we’re the delicate flowers that fare none too well away from the north.  The Hermès design is an interesting combination because the floral elements seem decidedly wispy but the arabesque elements are quite formal.  In a twill, these two design registers tend to fight, but in this mousseline they blend together effortlessly.

Like with Au Fil de la Soie, mousseline GMs of Arabesques are rare to pop up.  I’m glad I waited—and glad, too, of Jan’s expertise when communicating with her.  As the fall/winter 2014 scarves roll into the stores, they get a lot of scarf collectors’ attention.  But sometimes, the old is siren.  It proves that beautiful things entrance for years to come.

How was your weekend; did you enjoy the beautiful cooler weather?

Posted in Hermès, Scarves

Summer black

Anne Fontaine black linen shift dress with J Crew straw tote

Anne Fontaine black linen shift dress with J Crew straw tote and espadrilles

While my wardrobe is increasingly made up of whites and light colors, black remains a summer staple.  In New York, how could it be otherwise.  Today let me share some of my favorite light-weight black summer looks.

First up, an Anne Fontaine shift dress.  This is what I wore when photographed by Bill Cunningham recently—wearing the Mythiques Phoenix pareo as a shawl to shield arms from the sun.  The Phoenix grabs all eyes  . . .

Talk about light.  This linen dress is pure air.  When I have to be out all day in the heat, like when heading to an open-air bar to watch a World Cup game, this is what I put on.  When paired with a straw bag and espadrilles, I can make believe I’m heading to the beach.  Better yet, add some crystal and silver, and I could be heading to a Riviera beach.  Fabulous.

More summer black . . . Uniqlo linen shirt with Agnès B. striped full skirt, Hermès Jigé clutch, and K Jaques sandals

More summer black . . . Uniqlo linen shirt with Agnès B. striped full skirt, Hermès Jigé clutch, and K Jaques sandals

Next—here’s a favorite and oft-repeated outfits of summer: a striped full skirt (with pockets!) and masculine linen shirt.  The skirt is from the très française label Agnès B that I love but can rarely find something to work (I’m nowhere near the measurements of their mannequins).  I was thrilled to find this striped full skirt as it immediately put me in mind of summers in Haute Normandy along the sea.  Only in Normandy, you’d need a thick sweater since summers are never really warm . . .

A softer black . . . DvF silk pink/black print blouse and Uniqlo boyfriend jeans

A softer black . . . DvF silk pink/black print blouse and Uniqlo boyfriend jeans with J Crew espadrilles

And last, a stay-at-home editing outfit during a long day of work.  Sometimes, it’s important to dress half-way nice just for you.  My boyfriend jeans from Uniqlo are much used, though mainly just for walks around Central Park when no one cares what anyone wears.  When I put them on for the day, I always feel the urge to balance them with a true blouse.  This halter style from DvF is my favorite of these dressier pieces.  Soft, soft, soft is this silk.  I love how the shape emphasizes a strong shoulder.

*

As you can see from these looks, black can be a great choice even in the hot depths of summer.  It all depends on the fabric and cut, and linen and canvas espadrilles especially are never-fail choices.  I don’t often wear all black when sitting around at home because my cat would leave me speckled with all her hair (she refuses to sit anywhere but on me).  But when heading out, a few light-weight black choices can easily take one from park to rooftop bar and from Madison Ave shopping to a music event in Harlem.

Do you wear black in summer?

Posted in Daily Vestment

Grail Search—Part Two (Au Fil de la Soie)

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie in a bright summer yellow

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie in a bright summer yellow

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, detail

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, detail

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, more detail

Hermès mousseline Au Fil de la Soie, more detail

The route of silk . . . showing all the classic Annie Faivre aesthetic detailing

The route of silk . . . showing all the classic detailing of Annie Faivre’s aesthetic 

One of the most entrancing things about Hermès scarves is how their subject material speaks so specifically to our particular interests and passions.  Annie Favre, one of Hermès most celebrated scarf artists, has a habit of hitting all my little and big fascinations, from the Ballet Russes to Marionettes to Eastern Gardens.  I once had a rather nice collection of Annie Faivre 90cm classic twills, but when the format proved not me, I didn’t want them languishing in my drawers.

That didn’t mean I’d gone off her designs.  The intricacy and the narrative quality continue to entrance.  She plays with Assyrian stylization that quickly leads me back to dreamy afternoons in Berlin’s Pergamon among the Ishtar Gates and its guardians.  One scarf in particular has haunted my footsteps—her interpretation of the journey of silk, Au Fil de la Soie.  Produced for a 1995 collection (I believe), it was reissued in a late-90s large mousseline format.

I’ve been waiting a long time for this mousseline version to finally turn up at my usual haunts.  There is so little information about the issue that specific color ways have been impossible to research, so I let one go by a couple years ago.  A few weeks ago I realized how fortunate it was I’d incorporated so much white, cream, ivory and blush pink into my wardrobe.  When this yellow version appeared, it fit right in.

Since receiving it, its joyful brightness quickly has made it a favorite summer scarf.  It’s like sitting under a lemony sun and sipping rose water.  This scarf just makes me happy, and I have to say—the best part of these warm-weather sartorial experiments is about taking things lightly.

Now, where’s the best gelato/ice cream in the city?  I’m thinking Ladurée.  Adventure soon.

What’s your happiest accessory?

Posted in Hermès, Scarves

Beat the Heat—Styling Thoughts

Fourth of July, from the rooftop, waiting for fireworks . . .

Fourth of July, from the rooftop, waiting for fireworks . . .

Looking south toward downtown

Looking south toward downtown

4th of July ensemble: Zara lace top, Ines de la Fressange x Uniqlo navy pants with red drawstring, and red Castaner espadrilles

4th of July ensemble: Zara lace top, Ines de la Fressange x Uniqlo navy pants with red drawstring, J Crew straw bag, and red Castaner espadrilles

Close up of the Zara top

Close up of the Zara top

It is starting to be HOT out there, people.

I do very poorly in hot weather.  I grow overheated in temperatures as low as 76F, so when the temperature dial hits mid to upper 80s—or, gasp, the 90s—ouch.

Last summer after arriving in NYC, I quickly realized my summer wardrobe wasn’t working.  Striped St. James cotton t-shirts, skinnies jeans, and white Anne Fontaine tops might work well enough in Oklahoma when using air-conditioning 24/7 and never walking anywhere, but it didn’t work in NYC.  New York is sticky hot, too, which means you really don’t want much hitting the skin.  Since I was realizing this only late in the season, there was nothing to do but promise to fix the problem come this summer.

My solution: lace and eyelet tops + espadrilles.

And another Zara top!  I love these lace things . . . nothing is better in the summer.

And another Zara top! I love these lace things . . . nothing is better in the summer.

Ines de la Fressange pinstriped black pants + Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Lalique cuff and J Crew tote

Ines de la Fressange pinstriped black pants + Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Lalique cuff + Baccarat pendant + J Crew tote

That combo worked so well, I wore it AGAIN two days later. :)

That combo worked so well, I wore it AGAIN. :)  I added a fancy Lalique necklace and K St. Jacques gold sandals

Ever since the H&M Consciousness Exclusive collection, I’ve been adding lace top to my wardrobe as the summer solution.  First came the Zadig et Voltaire sample sale eyelet finds, one sleeveless and one cap-sleeved; I wear them every week.  Then came the start of the Zara sale, at which I grabbed a few lace-y tops.  Fast forward a week and a half, and I went back and grabbed more.

The Zara lace tops from this seasons sale

The Zara lace tops from this seasons sale

The Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Ann Taylor eyelet skirt

The Zadig et Voltaire eyelet top + Ann Taylor eyelet skirt

Why get so many?  Because add a little Cosabella bandeau bra, et voilà!  Instant cool comfort.  As in, the most fabulous hot and humid summer solution.  Yes, I’m showing skin . . . but once the humid heat hits, no one cares.

But if finding hot-weather tops was imperative this summer, finding hot-weather shoes was even more so.  My feet were in pain last summer.  Everything chaffed.  Everything tore up my feet.  I began to worry my feet could no longer stand up to city walking—when city walking is the activity I love best.  Then about two months or so ago, I tried something completely new: espadrilles.  Specifically: the cheap, cheap ones from J Crew.

My summer shoes: J Crew espadrilles, J Crew ballerinas,  K St Jacques sandals, Freed's of London ballerinas, and Castaner espadrilles wedges

My summer shoes: J Crew espadrilles, J Crew ballerinas, K St Jacques sandals, Freed’s of London ballerinas, and Castaner espadrilles wedges

I just get happy looking at this sunny collection

I just get happy looking at this sunny collection.  My feet are even happier.

The espadrilles are heavenly . . . the ballerinas still need a bit of breaking in.

The espadrilles are heavenly . . . the J Crew ballerinas still need a bit of breaking in.

I promised myself I would spare no expense to find comfortable summer shoes this year.  Little did I know to go cheap would be the best solution.  Aside from divinely soft Freed’s of London red ballerinas, my foot saviors have been the cheap as chips cotton espadrilles constantly on sale at J Crew.  The K St. Jacques sandals are also quite, quite comfortable on the stickiest of days, though my knees hurt like the dickens by the time I get home.  The Castaner wedges are good for short ventures, but I prefer flats anymore.

So—the summer heat solution seems to be: cheap as chips lace top + cheap as chips espadrilles.  What then about a bag?  Cheap as chips works there too:

J Crew woven basket tote

J Crew woven basket tote

A straw bucket bag is a classic summer staple, and this is a sturdy choice.  I can lug laptops (yes plural) and books to meetings, or a towel and pillow to the rooftop deck.  Occasionally J Crew offers a discount on them, so I encourage keeping a look-out.

 

What tips do you have for summer styling?

Posted in Daily Vestment, Vestiary

Holy Grails (Part One)—Jamdani

Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès

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—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—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—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—a beautiful warm toned stole with what looks like orange embroidery

Hermès scarf catalogue Spring-Summer 2008, copyright Hermès—the beautiful model

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 in Ivoire/Brun . . . never worn

Jamdani stole by Hermès — the information booklet

Jamdani stole by Hermès — the information booklet

Jamdani stole by Hermès — the story of the weaving process

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 over a decade)

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

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 . . .

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 . . .

Clapping wildly.

Posted in Hermès, Scarves