THE HISTORY OF A SILK SCARF BUSINESS
Richard Allan, scarf designer, established his business in 1962. Richard left an extensive archive of fabulous designs which I, Cate Allan (one of his daughters) am now reworking for both fashion and interiors, having launched the scarves at the Aspreys’ William & Son in Mayfair.
Richard Allan designs reflected the world in which they were created. It was a time of great social change when boundaries were pushed and Britain led the way. Post-war there was an explosion of talent in music, fashion and art. The Beatles, Carnaby Street, the Kings Road, Peter Blake, Mary Quant,Terence Conran to name a few, exemplified the movement away from past austerity to colour and fun.
Richard Allan possessed an extraordinary eye for line and colour, basing designs on both organic and geometric forms. Aesthetics mattered to him, his style was eclectic, his collections included the daring and the bold from avant-garde to classically elegant, sometimes amusing, often whimsical.
His groundbreaking designs and off-beat colours were perfect for London in the Swinging Sixties where Richard was based. Popularity for his silk scarves grew rapidly allowing him to create bi-annual collections referencing contemporary art and design alongside Art Nouveau and William Morris.
In his first year of trading Richard Allan sold over 50,000 scarves. His fledgling company moved from its temporary room to 87 Duke Street in Mayfair, where it flourished for the next twenty years creating a distinctive style with Joan Shepherd, designer and assistant who also oversaw production. Throughout the years scarves were screen-printed and hand-finished in the UK, a tradition I am continuing.
The designs were drawn or painted in solid colour on paper for each proposed colour way and the artworks were then dispatched to David Evans & Co in Crayford, Kent where the silk was printed on a long table in lengths of approximately ten metres. Once dry the rolls of printed silk were sent to Duke Street where the individual scarves were cut, packed in brown paper parcels and delivered to the hand hemmers, a team of women outworkers based in West London.
Archie the driver would collect the finished scarves and return them to Duke Street for critical inspection by Miss Lamb, the quality controller and stock room manager. Buyers would then make appointments to visit the Mayfair showroom for a consultation with Richard, learn about his new collections and place their orders.
Scarves were sold initially to London’s most iconic stores, Fenwick, Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Liberty and Selfridges. Over time a global reputation was established and scarves were sold to Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and in all the major stores throughout the USA. Following this, markets were achieved throughout Europe and the Far East.
Richard also developed a bespoke market for exclusive corporate commissions. Clients included Alfred Dunhill, Newmarket Races, the Rank Organisation and Harper’s Bazaar. He collaborated with Schiaparelli and Yves St Laurent, who licensed a number of designs. Richard Allan Scarves were frequently seen in film and television productions such as those famously worn by Dame Diana Rigg in The Avengers and Mary Tyler Moore in the American, Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The Richard Allan Scarves Archive encompasses the 1960s through to the 1980s when Richard retired. It seemed an enormous waste that these beautiful designs were languishing, unused and so I decided to relaunch the business updating and re-working colours for a twenty first century audience.
Richard Allan London now offers a collection of silk squares, long scarves, bandanas and pocket squares. For interiors, we have framed silk scarves as well as Limited Edition archival prints. On museum paper at 76x76 cm, the original scarf size, the art prints are subtly textured and beautifully vibrant, a testimony to the best of 1960s design.
This is a new and exciting era for Richard Allan London. The original designs are proving both popular and collectible as wearable art and we are developing a totally new contemporary collection. We have also achieved quite a following in fashion as a result of our successful print collaboration with H&M’s Richard Allan collection, ‘Richard Allan x H&M’, launching globally, and in interiors with designers around the world.
Richard Allan is fast becoming a by-word for exclusive, premier quality silk scarves again!
Since its beginnings Richard Allan designs have featured throughout the world’s most beautiful magazines. See below a selection of current articles followed by some of our early press.