Saturday, June 5, 2010

Collection FW2010: Cent Plis de Miao

I haven't felt so much enthusiasm admiring the Maison's designs for a while. Yet, like a fabulous find in a treasure chest - literally or figuratively - and I'm thinking here of a pair of shoes on a shelf in a tiny shop down one of those quiet streets in an upscale "quartier" (i.e. city district) – this scarf has filled my heart with excitement and joy and stimulated my imagination. So a tribute to it is very much in order.

Perhaps the design with the most promise of the Fall/Winter 2010 Collection – and one I particularly appreciate – "Cent Plis de Miao" ("A Hundred Pleats of Miao") pays tribute to the Miao culture and its nearly four million-strong people bound by it, living in China (the Miao people also live in Vietnam and Laos, where they’re called “Hmong”).

The dress depicted in this design is highly symbolic of the Miao culture and an essential element of it, whose name means “raw rice” – the dress is often mentioned in songs and folk tales, thereby becoming an integral and defining element of the culture. The fabrics are pleated, a technique believed to be inspired from (and reflective of) the mushroom gills. The finer the pleats, the higher the value of the dress.

Of particular interest is the creative craft of rendering the colours on the dress: the blue hues are obtained from a natural indigo pigment where the fabric, previously marked with wax to protect the areas (of the design) desired to appear white, is allowed to soak in the indigo dye. Once the desired hue is obtained, the fabric is remove, allowed to dry, then heated – both to remove the wax and finally to reveal the white patterns. The rest of the colours are embroidered by hand (a fantastic collection, consisting of similar dresses with no less than a thousand pleats is on display at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris).

The darling of the aficionados and one of the most prolific designers in the service of Hermès, Aline Honoré has delighted us yet again with a design inspired from far-away lands, equally fascinating and mysterious. She chose to depict the dress in all its splendour, spread across a surface suggestive of another type of fabric design that the Miao women choose to wear tied around their legs, whose patterns of squares and lines are also representative of their culture. Reminiscent of the Brazil design of the previous season’s collection in the dress display, the similarities between the two designs stop here. The background is simple so as to allow the dress to shine. A truly beautiful – artistic, creative, sensible display worth the glory the Hermes silk twill brings to it.


  1. I know this is a rather old post now, but anyhow will ask the question - hoping you might see the post and give your opinion. Cent Plis des Miao is one of not-so-many scarves I liked in AW 2010 collection. I tried numerous colourways, but noticed that the colours are unusual (a sort of "sicklish" colour palette), at least they seem so to me, and, united with a very busy design, I do not get the desired outcome, even with the colours which usually work very well for me. It seems to me that purple-yellow might be least busy, but anyhow, I have not been able to try it IRL and am scared to buy through Internet - for the reason there might be a difference between the featured colours and the real ones. I would appreciate any your opinion on my thoughts... TIA. Anna

  2. Hello Anna,

    Please forgive me for the delay in writing back - I missed your question altogether and only now came across it, so I'm rushing to convey, along with my apologies, my response. One thing that I noticed with this pattern is the busy-ness of this scarf when tied. And not just busy-ness, but the pleats design trigger a very "geometric" pattern thanks to the parallel lines, and this is very difficult to wear in a traditional way. My suggestion would be to try some of the more sophisticated knots - such as the "rope", wrapped three times around your neck (I will post a picture in the coming days). I am convinced this approach will address both the colour issue and the pattern.

    But speaking about the colours, I agree that many colour combinations are unusual. May I ask what skin complexion you have, and what "your" colours are? Please let me know.

    Many thanks, once again, for your note and I anticipate to have at least one image for you to give you an idea of how a certain way of wearing the scarf may influence your ability to sport some scarves that otherwise you would haven't considered.

  3. Hello, thanks for your kind response. I very much agree that knotting affects the final outcome tremendously. My complexion is pale, no olive or yellow undertones, however my hair is dark, eyes are brown-green, I have dark brown eyebrows (a little bit thicker, but not old-fashionedly thick like in 60s). Therefore, I usually can grab orange, reddish, even pink colours (let's say, I think that the scarf which fits me best is Ex Libris Camouflage in pink - it somehow make my face brighter). I also like the effect which Pour Sortir produces - orange and burnt orange colours fit me very well. However, I tried this scarf with a red border - red is some sort of red with brownish undertone and it really did not fit. Then blue-pink; no effect whatsover, you know the feeling when you put something and it simply...does not speak to you, does not make any effect and make you wish to take it off. Wanted to ask the purple-yellow one, but my SA unfortunately ordered a wrong colourway. Namely, somehow I think, although purple and yellow are not my colours, that they might be "open" and brightening enough to fit me. I did not want to try an orange one, as it seems veery strong and I think I should stop at Pour Sortir with strong orange colours, too many already in my scarf drawer. The green one has blue undertones and also does not fit...However, too many guesses around that purple scarf...More trying and courage in H shop would be needed - maybe it was missed in my case...
    Will wait for your reply, many thanks again, best regards, Anna

  4. Thank you for your follow-up, Anna, and for the wealth of details you so graciously shared with me. One more question I'd like to ask, in connection to my strong belief that everything we wear should reflect who we are, and this is: how would you describe your personality? I'm looking to assess whether stronger colours would fit your personality and you'd prefer to go with softer hues. I'm a big fan of harmonious contrasts personally, so I'd even go as far as saying that you may in fact find the green scarf attached at the bottom of the post potentially flattering. Thank you!

  5. Actually, I cannot wear the so called "soft" and neutral colours - they make my face somehow "washed out". I feel really good when some stronger colour comes close to my face - let's say, I decided to buy red Brazill II gavroche in a second, it made me very happy (mixture of "real" red (no undertone), purple and orange colour. It really makes me feel good and my face looks so bright then! I agree that the green one attached under the text might fit well - of course (as often happens with Hermes), it is not easy to hunt it (and I had no opportunity to see it IRL). Further, I think that Cent Plis des Miao can be a "risky" design to wear, you said it well - it should be really taken into account HOW to wear certain scarf. This design is sooo beautiful, it is really nice, but in "classic" knots it can be risky, as it is so overwhelming and could "swallow up" the user's personality :-). However, thanks a lot for your comments and design analysis - you really teach us a lot, to understand Hermes in a much deeper way than we usually do. Best, Anna

  6. I, too, love the story captured on this canvas, but I had a hard time recommending because of its geometric pattern, which gives it a very "static" flair (and I personally don't find it appealing because I consider myself very dynamic). More, the actual colour combinations of this design in particular are very soft, as you had correctly pointed out, and it's difficult to sport them without risking to accentuate a physical feature of yours that may not need emphasis - unless, of course, you have strong features, in which case such a scarf would "tone" the features down. For you, that sounds not to be the case.

    If you have soften features, as you indicated, and a strong personality, you can absolutely embrace stronger colours to reflect just that, and complement your face harmoniously.

    May I suggest "Brides de gala en finesse" or even "nuees imaginaires"? There's another design - deemed a classic but reinterpreted in a more contemporary colour palette - is Cuirs du desert, whose colours are absolutely phenomenal; in fact, I had a hard time choosing a favourite because several almost took my breath away (such as red/taupe combination, orange/brown, even black/gold...). Of course, the story needs to appeal to you, and if it doesn't, so be it. Looking forward to more designs in the future (as with dating, if the train didn't stop for you, it was the wrong train; similarly, if you find even remotely uncomfortable about any aspect of a scarf, then that scarf is not meant for you!). I remember how I was in awe over the "In the pocket" design. I found it phenomenal, it's one of the very few I am absolutely mesmerized about. Others, which appealed to many people, didn't resonate with me as well. And that's ok.

    Finally Anna, I am grateful for your very kind words and for taking the time to write and share your thoughts with me. I know time is precious, and I appreciate you giving me some of yours. I'm also delighted to have you as one of my loyal fans, I find both strength and inspiration when I get to talk to you. Thanks, once again, for your continued support and for believing in the beauty of these stories and of these scarves, and I hope to have the privilege of welcoming you again on my site, in the very near future. And of course, feel free to write again, I'm happy to answer any questions you may have, and exchange impressions and share experiences.


    -- costin

  7. Thanks a lot for your nice reply and for your time, your analysis is so profound and actually described my feelings, converted them into words! Thanks for so unique and profound approach! I agree with you - I like Cuirs du Desert so much, at least it seems breathtaking on the photo. I would appreciate if you could prepare analysis of this design too - I am sure there are many elements I have not seen :-) Btw, I adore gavroches too and found the ways how to show their full beauty when needed. They are very practical when one feels that carre 90 has too much silk...that bulky feeling that happens occasionally. Thanks a lot again, waiting for your further beautiful additions, best, Anna

  8. Dear Anna,

    I'm honoured to have earned you appreciation of my high standards of quality and my penmanship, and I thank you humbly for your kind words. It is thanks to fans like you that I continue to seek - and find ! - beautiful and meaningful designs. Thank you and I hope to have the pleasure of your visit in the very near future (you may appreciate last week's post as more special to you than others!).