Pioneering the Scarf Industry
Pioneering the Scarf Industry
By Paige McKirahan
Seeing as how we have already learned the history behind the magnificent accessory, we begun to wonder about the designers who paved the way for scarves to become the classic piece that they are today. Hermes, of course, burst onto the scene with their wonderful silk designs that exuded luxury and wealth, capturing the attention of everyone from starlets to the everyday person. But what about the other popular designers that took the piece and molded it into something of their own? Read on to hear of our favorite scarf designers and brands throughout time (and to find some of their pieces in our shop!)
When the brand first stepped onto the scene in 1939, it emerged under the umbrella of the Glendser Textile Co. that received its first registered trademark for lady’s scarves and handkerchiefs. In the following decades up into the 1970s, Glentex became increasingly popular and was widely known for their beaded collars and vibrant patterns. Many pieces were made in Japan out of a wide variety of fabrics, including silk and rayon. At the height of their popularity, they even partnered with our beloved Schiaparelli and Gloria Vanderbilt to create high fashion pieces!
This brand, which was popularized by their easy-to-carry rainboots, hails from our home state of Ohio! Specializing in rainwear and waterproof accessories, Totes truly began in 1942 and shot to fame after they introduced the first collapsible umbrella in 1970. From there on out, they began creating other popular rainwear, including the coveted water resistant scarf. This supermarket and drugstore brand is still operating today and boasts a large collection of colorful, waterproof accessories that even high fashion lovers love to sport!
After its conception in the ‘20s, Echo began building an impressive arsenal of patterns that would build rapport until the late ‘70s when the scarf business began to see a decline. When the creators' daughter, Dorothy, took over the company after her husband’s death, she was determined to beat the dwindling sales and did just that in 1983 when the brand made its way into the European market. After a slew of licensing agreements with fashion and home goods giants like Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley, the company began releasing more accessories and home furnishings that expanded their profits and popularity exponentially. Today, it is still privately owned by the family and this emerging lifestyle brand still celebrates their humble roots with their 95 anniversary just having passed in September. In their blog commemorating the event, they even go as far as saying that they feel responsible for bringing the scarf to the world of fashion (Bold statement! Do you agree?)
Though there seems to be many famous Vera’s in the fashion industry (think Bradley and Wang), Vera Neumann is one of the most iconic of them all; her namesake brand made beautiful art affordable and not just a thing to be admired on the wall. With all of her scarf designs being based upon original paintings, it is evident that Vera had creative roots in textiles and illustration. When she began a silkscreen printing company with her husband George and their friend Frederick, it saw almost immediate success. In the midst of World War II, the growing company was looking for ways to continue manufacturing product despite heavy rations; she stumbled upon some parachute silk at an army surplus store and voila! Her scarf business was born. She created the first signature scarf in history with her name transferred to every product, making her a household favorite with recognition all around the country. Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and even the First Lady Bess Truman loved her designs as she requested the "Vera" fabric be used in White House Decor. Her iconic presence in both the art and fashion worlds landed her work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of History and Technology, and the Museum of Modern Art. She was even commissioned to paint the Foucault Pendulum in the Smithsonian, which can still be seen hanging in their offices today.
As one of the industry’s most knowledgeable scarf entrepreneurs, Elaine Gold got her start as Vera’s assistant where she was the studio business manager tasked with helping develop and market the scarf business. 19 years later, she joined another budding scarf business, Robinsons & Colluber, where she was one of the first to make waves in brand marketing for the scarf industry. She then joined another one of our designer favorites, Totes, and ran their XIIX Karats brand that she eventually bought in 1983. Changing its name to Collection XIIX, she built it into a powerhouse with licenses from Anne Klein and Jones New York. When Drew Pizzo bought her company in the ‘90s, she went on to create Elaine Gold Enterprises, which found its first license with the US Postal Service! She worked with the Met, Vera Bradley, and essentially anyone in the industry looking to promote their scarves as she was the “go to” expert in the field.
Though there are a wide variety of other scarf designers that paved the way for today’s successors, these are some of our favorites. In addition, Avon, Paoli, and Burmel created high quality designs that were affordable and can be seen in vintage shops all over the world. On the higher end, Valentino, Missoni, and Givenchy all have been creating luxury scarves adored by the industry for decades. To purchase any of these brands, check out our links throughout this post or search our collection to find some hidden gems of your own!