A girlfriend who has witnessed two of these four trips promptly announced ‘Ha! You, lady, are a scarf addict’. Gosh, I thought. Maybe I am? And proceeded to ask myself; Why? When? How? What is it that sparked this particular addiction of mine? I grew up on the Eastern Coast of Australia, scarves were rarely necessary and I only remember wearing them on ski trips as a kid, so it’s something I’ve picked up as an adult. Upon further reflection I have decided that it was October 2003 that I first fell in love with scarves. I have never looked back.
I was in my early 20’s and spending a month travelling through Turkey and Syria. Istanbul was first, we were there for around 5 days, and I must have spent at least 3 of them wandering through The Grand Bazaar in the city’s old town. As most green tourists do, I paid way over the necessary price for the first few mediocre quality pashminas, but luckily, early in our stay we visited a local antiques exporter to whom we had been introduced by a Sydney dealer. He swiftly highlighted my mistakes, whilst simultaneously selling me an antique scarf that had been hand stitched by Bedouin tribeswomen in the early 1900’s (on writing this I am a touch ashamed that after nearly a decade in my possession it has still not made it into a frame to be carefully preserved). He then helpfully directed me to the stall in the bazaar that local women would use to buy their scarves.
So, armed with this knowledge, I headed back to the bazaar and the recommended stall. Now, these pashminas were more expensive than their inferior counterparts but the quality was immediately recognisable. I spent around an hour there and in broken English the woman behind the counter taught me the single thing one must know about a good quality pashmina, if it threads seamlessly though a wedding ring then you know you’re on to a winner. I bought six, two of which I still wear to this day. The remaining four have fallen prey to various nights out. The electric orange one left in a cinema in South Kensington, the pale pink carelessly dropped on a roadside in Putney, the chocolate brown stolen in Sydney and the camel? God knows. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that my darling sister may have appropriated that one. Hopefully it is keeping her warm in the Beijing spring.
Onwards, we travelled to Syria’s Aleppo and Damascus where I fiendishly acquired more and a year or so later, a trip to Morocco and the souk in Marrakesh helped top up the growing collection. Sadly, trips to Northern Africa and the Middle East are not on the cards for the coming year so my eye has redirected to more contemporary versions.
My current favourites are pieces by Beck Sondergaard, from Copenhagen. She does fabulous designs across a range of prices and fabrics, either light cotton summer wraps, or heavier wool and silk pieces for the chillier months. Strangely, the size is the thing I like about them most, they easily wrap around my neck at least three times offering a relaxed look that you can style for a variety of occasions. Stars, stripes, dragon flies and soft abstract prints (to name a few) mean that they can brighten up any outfit. My current (and highly unimaginative) work uniform is jeans & t-shirt with a blazer and the scarves give a great pop of colour, adding character to this repetitive look of mine.
The other thing I love about this underestimated accessory is their individuality. A scarf is something that you ‘own’ more than most pieces in your wardrobe. I can immediately recognise one of my mum’s scarves by the smell of Chanel No. 5, and my sisters by Coco Mademoiselle. There is something very comforting about wrapping a scarf around your neck in the morning and recognising your fave perfume (Chanel Chance for me. Hmm, detecting a familial theme here). It’s a comforting and reassuring experience, if a small and often unobserved one.
So, addicted I may be. But I think I’m OK with that. I should probably try and restrain myself from weekly purchases, but I hope scarves will remain a signature part of my wardrobe for years to come.
To feed your own addiction I would recommend popping by one, or all, of the below local spots:
Portobello Rd Market (Saturdays) Notting Hill, W11
Katie & Jo New Kings Rd, Parsons Green, Sw6
Dover St Market Dover St, W1S