It all started in 2006, with Alexander McQueen's skull scarf. The last few years have seen this accessory morph from a patterned or knitted wrap or veil into something of a blank canvas for illustrators and textile artists. The development of digital printing has helped, of course, enabling designers to execute some incredible work, from Professor Richard Weston's beautiful magnified minerals on silk satin to Erdem's glorious floral prints.
The result has been an explosion of new talents, with brands such as Silken Favours and Athena Procopiou that specialise in creating art that is wearable and can update an outfit, summer or winter.
One of the most exciting brands to appear recently is the New York trio We Are Owls. Launching in 2010, cousins Emily and Ling Chen and their friend Connie Liu have created a series of beautiful pieces with a dark, fantastical, fairy-tale aesthetic to their exquisitely rendered prints. It is to Ling Chen that the design honours go: a graduate of New York's revered Parsons School of Design, she works at the drawings in pen, ink, paint and digitally to create designs that embody each season's theme. For Summer 2012, the relationship between man and nature translates as sinewy, intricate line drawings of snakes and crocodiles, skulls and flowers, graphic animal-print patterns and, most spectacularly, a dramatic, painterly owl in flight.
The silk and cashmere scarves - which are more than two metres long - are handmade by artisans in Inner Mongolia who, instead of using digital printing, employ a more laborious silk-screen method. Each colour is applied separately in a process that retains those variations so characteristic of the human touch. The result is a collection that would look as spectacular hanging on a wall as draped over a summer dress.
From Dh670, We Are Owls at www.netaporter.com.