On Tuesday I went to see a beautiful collection of scarves from Ascher London, presented in a suite at Number One Aldwych. Marking their first collection of scarves in thirty years, the collection consists of some brand new designs sitting alongside classic designs from the Ascher library, reworked in new colourways.
Ascher was founded as a fabric house in 1947; their fabrics graced the catwalks of an amazing list of couturiers including Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Schiaparelli, Lanvin and Mary Quant. A husband and wife team, Lida designed and Zika printed the fabrics.
Fabric shortages during the Second World War lead to a rise in the popularity of colourful headscarves as an easy way to liven up dull uniforms. During the 1940s Ascher took advantage of this trend, initially reproducing nineteenth-century prints in vivid new colourways.
Later, they became the first studio to approach and join forces with artists to produce scarves from illustrations and paintings, boasting another impressive list of those involved: Matisse, Derain, Berard, Moore, Cocteau, Nicholson and Sutherland.
Sam Ascher, grandson of Lida and Zika, talked me through the current collection along with some vintage scarves and artwork from the Ascher archive. This included a rare opportunity to see some original and never-used ink illustrations by Cecil Beaton, complete with his handwritten instructions outlining the repeat pattern.
All of the scarves are made in Italy using luxurious silk twill, silk chiffon, cashmere and modal with hand rolled edges and the quality is immediately apparent.
Screen printing (rather than digital printing) allows the designs to be reproduced exactly, so that each design is as perfect as if it had been hand-painted. Some multi tonal scarves are produced using up to ten screens, ensuring each of the artists’ original brushstrokes is retained in perfect detail. There is definitely no cutting of corners where Ascher is concerned.
The collection look book features an illustrated guide of How To Wear Your Ascher Scarf. Names like The Sports Car and The Parisian Loop conjure up images of glamorous femme fatales racing around the Home Counties in classic cars. The whole collection captures the optimistic glamour and elegance of the post-war era.
One of the scarves designed by Henry Moore is described in the look book as Bridging the gap between fashion and fine art, Aschers designs are described as equally at home in a frame or worn on an evening out.
The designs were celebrated with a retrospective at the V&A back in 1987 and they are still held in many museum collections, evident by the two Henry Moore wall hangings on display, which I was told had been unexpectedly sent over by the Tate that morning.
All photography by Naomi Law, unless otherwise stated
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