It's Hermès, but not as we know it. This is the first look at the new Commes des Carres scarf collection, the rather surprising collaboration between the 175-year-old luxury goods house and Rei Kawakubo, the maverick designer behind Commes des Garçons.
Kawakubo was invited by Hermès to "reimagine" a selection of designs from its archives. After browsing 250 scarves from the 1950s to the 1970s, she redesigned 12, incorporating the bold geometric, dots and checks and idiosyncratic touches synonymous with Commes des Garçons, so that the scarves carry signature elements of each house. Thus, a marine print from the 1950s is superimposed with polka-dots; the classic equestrian design, orginally from the 1970s, is covered with chessboard squares.
"I was looking forward to the change that would happen when I added something to the beautiful paintings of Hermès scarf designs," Kawakubo says. "Through the addition of abstract images, we have created something new."
As with all Hermès scarves, which are made in Lyon (due to the quality of the silk mills there) the 19th-century process of engraving the design, printing and colouring it, means that each design has been two years in the making.
The collection goes on sale this month in two parts. The first, Noir et Blanc, features five scarves with abstract black and white designs and is available exclusively in Comme des Garçons shops in Paris, New York and Tokyo. The other, named Couleur, features six scarves and will be reserved for the Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo.
Couleur will also be for sale online at www.doverstreetmarket.com from this month. The Noir et Blanc from April 1. Each design is limited to 200 pieces. Prices are available on request.