Silk headscarves may not be the practical accessory they once were – replaced by hats and hoods to combat cold, and no longer needed to protect bouffant-set hair from the elements because tousled hair is now de rigueur – yet their sheer style remains undiminished. And modern designers are cleverly using them as glamorous windows into their imaginations.
Vicki Murdoch is the creative talent behind Silken Favours, and makes bespoke silk scarves using hand-drawn illustrations. “I was born in the 1980s, but the 1960s and 1970s are my favourite style era,” she explains. “The print-on-print-on-print from that time inspires all my designs.”
Murdoch’s collections include playful animal motifs, such as ladybirds, horses, cats and dogs (first picture, £135) – indeed, she did a special corgi pattern for last year’s Queen’s Jubilee – and jungle themes (second picture, £220). The stories behind her customised designs are displayed in a charming rogues’ gallery on her website.
“I began by making bespoke scarves for friends and family. I loved the idea of opening a beautiful box to discover a silk scarf with everything you loved on it – it could be cats and roses, the colour blue, or guns, chickens and tigers. The first range I designed started with a bespoke scarf for my parents. I drew all the birds that visited their garden.”
Artist and scarf designer Natasha Chambers is also inspired by a bygone era: “As a family, we used to drive in a tiny little open-top MG from England to Holland to visit my mum’s relatives. My sisters and I would sit in the back wearing silk headscarves to stop our hair whipping around. We looked like 1960s mini style icons holding onto our teddy bears! I am very inspired by other women, but I always design for myself.”
Chambers set up Lissy Verkade – her mother’s name – and started producing printed scarves in silk crêpe de Chine and cashmere modal blends. The design on her bestselling baboon print scarf (third picture, £195) alludes to Victorian zoetrope sequences, and is equally popular with men and women. Other designs include running antelopes, dancing skeletons and a Charlie Chaplin silhouette (fourth picture, £185). “I am inspired by the likes of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, [American folk artist] Henry Darger, the woodblock prints of Utagawa Hiroshige and the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge.”
Chambers uploads photographs to her A Scarf a Day blog, showcasing new designs on her friends in New York, the city where she now lives with her artist husband Oliver Clegg. An album of snaps demonstrates the myriad ways in which her scarves can be worn.
Both trans-seasonal and unique, these scarves are modern interpretations of a style classic.