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 (daughter) am now reworking for both fashion and interiors.
My father’s 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.
Richard created his designs on a drawing board in the back office alongside his devoted assistant, Joan Shepherd, 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 colourway and these 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 outworkers based in West London.
Once hemmed, Archie our driver would collect the finished scarves and return them to Duke Street for critical inspection by Miss Lamb, quality controller and stock room manager. Buyers would then make appointments to visit the showroom for a consultation with Richard and latterly Cate, learn about his new collections and place their orders.
Scarves were sold initially to London’s most iconic stores. Fenwick, Fortum & 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 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 so wrong 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 pockets squares. For interiors, we have framed silk scarves as well as Limited Edition archival design prints. and most recently, a collection of silk and velvet cushions.
This is a new and exciting era for Richard Allan London. The original designs are both popular and collectible as wearable art and we love developing new contemporary collections. From our hugely enjoyable and 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, my father's legacy lives on in, of course, divine colour!
With characteristic vibrancy and style, our new Richard Allan lines are a testimony to the best of 1960s and 1970s design and Richard Allan is once again a by-word for exclusive, unique, premier quality design!