If you look closely at one of my photos you will see a card sitting on my hat and scarf. This arrived from my recent benefactor of three silk scarves with an explanation of how they came to be passed to me. The card shows a drawing of a small boutique with the name TOUT VA BIEN, which translates as…All goes well or simply, That’s fine. What a great feeling if one could start each day with that little phrase. I will come back to the extraordinary coincidence connecting the card to my featured scarf later in the blog.
Now to the scarf and where the last of my trilogy will take us today. We are going to follow the journey my aunt Catherine took bravely as a young woman, aged nineteen or thereabouts in the early years of last century. I will be flying on my magic carpet, unlike the uncomfortable long journey my aunt would have undertaken by boat after leaving her small home town on the East coast of Scotland. She was a milliner and was seeking a new life in America. Many of my family in the generation before her had done the same thing looking for adventure in Canada, America or Australia. My aunt was given a home with Charlie and Lizzie Robertson, such a former Scottish immigrant family uncle and aunt in New Jersey. She did not follow her millinery career, but became a governess, met a naval man and raised her family. She must have watched the giddy growth of Fifth Avenue with all its exciting trendsetting fashion and indeed visited the very store bearing the name on my scarf today, Henri Bendel in its very early days. The famous store Bendels traded for 123 years, but alas is no longer. Henri built up a successful business from his first interest in millinery in Greenwich Village which grew to a store in Upper Fifth Avenue. On his death he left half his shares to his employees, the other half to his partner. He apparently loved dogs and this would explain the design of my scarf. Poor old Henri is long gone, his store with its Lalique glass windows, rescued with the help of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, has now designated landmark status. Maybe I will take a guided tour when I land. The scarf was designed by a Frenchman Izak Zenou who was introduced to Bendels by Coco Chanel whose chic fashion was sold in the store. Izak worked with Bendels for twenty years starting as in-house illustrator and was responsible for introducing the design of ultra slim, incredibly long-legged, fashionable girls holding equally long legged hounds on leashes. Maybe that’s why dog-loving Joan, my scarf’s original owner bought it. Who would have thought that Andy Warhol also started his amazing career as an in-house illustrator at Bendels? No, I don’t have a scarf designed by him but I am delighted with this trendy number by Izak. There is a lot of history behind it and I also like dogs.
It is nice quality cream silk printed with a never ending circlet of linked purple, pink, blue and green coloured dogs carrying Bendel’s famous brown and cream striped bags. The dogs have long legs, heads held high and rather unattractive upcurled tails. The hems are very neatly rolled and hand stitched. (Somehow I don’t think the silk scarves in Auntie Cathy’s time would have been made in China as described on the label.) The weather is quite sunny today so I am going to tie my scarf round my straw Fedora hat for the carpet ride over the Atlantic. I look at the hat’s label….would you believe it? DOBBS of Fifth Avenue, New York, another old venerable company which was around when my aunt landed. I had hoped I might find that she had worked for such a company, but no such link. I wonder if the stores were near each other and whether Mr.Bendel knew Mr.Dobbs? I am introducing them today as I wear my straw hat. I actually bought it in Richmond.
I mentioned earlier that there was a connection between the Caspari card and scarf other than they arrived together in the post to me. You will know by now I am interested in art and I find the artist who designed the notecard is Masaki Ryo from Japan. I looked up other examples of her work and to my great surprise, I find she also creates designs of stylish, long legged women holding dogs on leashes! They are very like Izak’s Girls. Life is just one big coincidence.
I also was on my way to a new life and adventure aged nineteen to stay with my American aunt when I met my husband-to-be. He was not a sailor, but an airman. TOUT VA BIEN. That’s fine! I did get there eventually to spend an exciting period of my life but it was some thirty years later! For now, it’s going to be quite an adventure landing this carpet in Central Park and evading Immigration Covid Control. I hope to be back with you next week.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!
Series 2, Blog 56.