Vintage Ties - Article - Sydney Morning Herald 03 May 2015

Knot to be sniffed at

Stephen Crafti
Published: May 3, 2015 - 1:53AM
Men's neckties and women's scarves don't appear to change significantly each season. However, when these items come with names such as Hermes and Louis Vuitton or Moschino and Gene Meyer, the value appears in every hand-rolled seam and label. And if you're fortunate enough to buy a vintage Hermes scarf in its original box, then you're truly in luck.

"Such a find can command up to $700 if it's in mint condition," says Robert Haigh, manager and senior jewellery specialist at Leonard Joel auctioneers in Melbourne. Even if it's a more recent item, such as a Hermes tie, the return at auction can be $160. "Westwood ties, particularly from the 1980s are also fetching good prices, up to $200," Haigh adds.
While Haigh sees a plethora of luxury scarves and ties walk through the doors for the regular pre-owned luxury auctions, Gilles Du Puy owner of the DECLIC stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, wouldn't dream of thinning out his hoard. Well before he opened his first DECLIC store in 1989, Du Puy was fossicking through markets and op shops for neckties. Vintage stores in New York's Lower East Side were popular haunts as were the markets in Paris, the city where he was raised.

These days, Du Puy has a worn suitcase filled with ties, some from the 1930s and '40s, as well as many from the more recent past. There are ties from the 1980s and 90s by Fornasetti, who is also collected for his plates and hand-painted surrealist furniture. Fornasetti's whimsical designs include overscaled chess pieces in vibrant hues of orange and cobalt blue. Also in Du Puy's "stash" is a tie by New York designer Gene Meyer. Produced in the 1990s, there's a purity of line and colour that's evocative of the graphic 1930s.
"Gene Meyer was always at the top end of the market. In the 1990s, I was selling these for around $100," says Du Puy, who has seen the evolution of ties, including their widths. "In the 90s, they were up to 10 centimetres, now they're moving back to eight," he adds.
There are also a few saucy designs in Du Puy's collection, including a Dolce & Gabbana tie from the late 1980s with a pin-up girl appearing on the reverse side. "I love the quirkiness of these designs, but they continually provide a source of inspiration for my business." One of Du Puy's most expensive purchases was at Corso Como 10, on the outskirts of Milan. A Moschino tie from the 1980s, it cost $280.

"I'd never seen the design before, but it was the unusual colours that caught my attention," he says pointing out the purple and orange combination. "But it inspired me in one of my recent collections, so it was well worth the money." Du Puy's ties have become an important archive. "They continually remind you about the past and where we've come from in terms of fashion. And more often than not, you can always trace something back to previous decades, just the cost is now considerably higher."
Marjorie Johnston, director of public relations agency Wordmakers, has a secret life as a collector of vintage scarves.
Johnston's collection of well over 100 scarves includes a who's who of designers: Dries Van Noten​, Prada, Oscar de la Renta and Christian Dior. But there are also unfamiliar names, including Jean de Bahrein​ and Richard Allan, a British designer from the 1960s, whose rolled-edged silk scarves are cherished.
"Just look at the quality," says Johnston, who bought many of her vintage scarves for between $15 and $20.
"If you bought this new today, my guess would be in the vicinity of $300."
Johnston's scarf collection has evolved over decades. She started collecting vintage scarves along with bags and shoes, as a teenager, scoring through vintage stores and markets. One of her first acquisitions was a 1930s-style scarf in silk georgette with a jazz moderne motif.
"It reminds me of the neck-scarves Edith Piaf used to wear," says Johnston, who often wears a neck-scarf with a navy suit for work.
Second-hand stores and markets were her primary source for collecting as a teenager, but as a young PR in 1992 and starting to get results, it was time to reward herself.
Her Hermes silk scarf from the "Springs" collection of the same year, cost $235. In pastel pink, with grey and gold emblems, similar scarves are now estimated to be worth north of $1000.
"Many of the scarves I bought in the 1990s were considerably softer in palette. A lot of them are now much brighter," says Johnston who sees her scarves as "wearable works of art".
History also attracts her to certain scarves, irrespective of their value. An Australian scarf, with only a signature "Neil", features Sydney as it was in the 1960s. The low-rise urban landscape includes The Gazebo Hotel in Kings Cross together with Kings Gate Tower.
"It's a reminder of how developed our cities have become." One of Johnston's more unusual scarves features the backs of four women posing for an advertisement for rock group Pink Floyd. Designed in 1987, the group's album covers appear tattooed onto their skin. Purchased for just $7, this scarf is as treasured as a Jean Patou, even with the latter having a small blemish. "That's the great thing about scarves. You can't see any faults when they're draped around your neck,"Johnston says. 
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