By: Sky Joe

The success of the Hermes silk scarf naturally prompted the firm's rivals in the luxury market into action. Fashion houses, couturiers, leather goods makers and tie manufacturers all began to design their own collections of silk scarves. Naturally the most famous names in the world of fashion did not simply copy Hermes but developed their individual styles. Often this consisted in using expressive and abstract motifs rather than the highly decorative Hermes style.

The starting point of any silk scarf is the designer's original idea, which is captured in sketches or developed from already existing motifs. Often the designer is inspired by historical prints, illustrations or woven designs, or perhaps from antique furnishing fabrics, rugs or antique porcelain. The idea is still relatively vague at this point and it is therefore turned into a concrete drawing by a graphic designer. This drawing is then used as the basis for making a stencil for each color used in silkscreen printing. As soon as the design has been approved the color effect of the composition is tested on paper. If the result is satisfactory, the type of silk will then be selected. It might be twill silk with its characteristic ribbed texture, while in other cases it might be decided that a fabric with woven-in patterns or motifs such as logos or lettering that become visible in the light would be preferable.

There are two types of silkscreen printing. In one all the colors are applied one after the other on natural fabric. In the other, known as discharge printing, the base fabric is dark in color and the pattern is achieved by "removing" or "taking out" the dark color in the relevant places and replacing it with lighter colors. Discharge printing is ideal for patterns with a dark background because the dark colors are more intense and deeper than if the black or blue was simply printed on.

In the case of "normal" silkscreen printing the process is reversed, that is, the printing modifies the light-colored material by making it darker. The first stage consists of marking the outlines of the pattern on the fabric; this is followed by the application of the colors, which may include as many as 18 or more shades, depending on the design. After a color is printed on one silk scarf, the operation is repeated on the next silk scarf but one, leaving the space of one silk scarf unprinted at this stage, so that the fresh colors at the edges do not get smudged or run together. Thus the first stage consists in printing the outline of the first silk scarf followed by the third, the fifth, and so in up to the thirty-ninth silk scarf. When the colors are dry, the second, fourth, sixth and so on up to the fortieth silk scarf are printed.

When the whole length of fabric has been printed, it is important to wait until the colors are thoroughly dry. Then the silk is set and finished in order to give it shine as well as softness. Out-workers carry out the final stage of production. They cut the scarves and hem or "roll" the edges by hand. In the case of cheaper silk scarves, a machine is used to do the job. Only hand-rolled hems have accurate corners and, in addition, the intervals between the individual stitches are always very slightly irregular, which adds a certain charm to the silk scarf.

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