Fit to be Tied
By Leslie Camhi
Coco Brun, the creator of luxurious silk twill scarves in luscious patterns, thinks French women’s reputation for the chic deployment of printed squares of fabric is, well, a bit overrated. Yes, Catherine Deneuve and Romy Schneider managed to look fetching in Hermès babushkas, and Brigitte Bardot rocked the headscarf that tamed her wild blonde mane. “But in the U.S. in the 1950s, you had Grace Kelly,” the Paris-based pattern designer and illustrator says, in her potent Gallic accent. “And then all over Asia, in Japan and Indonesia, for example, people use fabrics more than anywhere else.”
The turban, traditionally an item of men’s dress in India, began appearing as a fashionable accoutrement in Western women’s portraiture about 300 years ago, when Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, married to the British ambassador to Turkey, sparked the trend.
Couturier Paul Poiret helped revive the style, adorned with feathers and jewels, as an elegant alternative for evening headdress in the first decades of the 20th century. And despite the notorious death-by-neck-scarf of dancer Isadora Duncan (caught in the wheels of a car in which she was a passenger), the scarf in its many permutations has been going strong ever since.
Headscarves were celebrated as icons of glamour in the ‘50s; bandanas and their ilk were embraced by the counter-cultural ‘60s as hippy-chic symbols of Third World solidarity and revolution; scarves returned with the ‘70s vogue for vintage (more turbans!) and then again in the logo-crazed ‘80s (Gucci!).
So it’s not surprising to see them recently turning up on runways: tied at the neckline in a floppy bow at Michael Kors, cinching the waist of a tailored jacket at Altuzarra, wound around the wrist at Loewe, or around a satchel handle at Louis Vuitton. Keen observers of London Fashion Week even noted the return of the babushka—in bright prints at Mary Katrantzou and at Christopher Kane in sheer plastic.
Brun dates the trend in large scarves to about five years ago, when after studying graphic and industrial design in Paris, she founded her pattern design studio, Forget Me Not, in London. “Now all the big brands do scarves,” she says, citing particular collections by Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Ferragamo and Louis Vuitton. Her own fringed and tasseled wares, woven in Italy, with vibrantly colored prints inspired by esoterica, nature and geometry, were quickly snapped up by fashionable boutiques like Colette in Paris.
Recent collaborations include a series of delicately geometric foulards commissioned by Baccarat to celebrate the French crystal manufacturer’s 250th anniversary, and an ultra-chic, faintly retro line of swimwear in highly saturated color and tropical prints for Seilenna.
Brun recalls, from childhood, her mother “wearing turbans all the time, as protection from the heat, when we were traveling in Africa.” For her own line, she designs varying shapes—long scarves, diamonds and pareos—to be tied around the head or neck, transformed into a skirt or even belted as a dress.
“If you’re cold, you can wrap one around you, like a shawl,” Brun says. “And when I am traveling, I always have a big one with me, so that if I need to visit a religious place, I can be both respectful and dressed up.” They never go out of style, and what’s more, they always fit.