Object of Affection
It was just a scarf wasn’t it? Of course it was. And then again it wasn’t. Splitting that difference between just keeping your neck warm and a life-changing experience can be as fine an act of analysis as second guessing when a small bird will twitch its head to see a new opportunity or trying to determine the moment the sun will set into a blazing sea.
Whilst pursuing a Departmental Directive in Paris last spring I found myself in the Eric Bompard boutique in Printemps. I found myself in that location as opposed to the glorious Eric Bompard store recently opened on Rue du Bac or any of the other locations around Paris.
Let’s be clear. Other than the fact that Eric Bompard designs, produces, and markets fabulous cashmere, this is in no way intended as an endorsement of his products per se. It does so happen though, that it was indeed an Eric Bompard product that served as the force de l’ouverture of a door to a larger truth. And for that, we are grateful.
My partner was in Au Printemps in search of red-soled shoes with heels of a certain height and a signature sweater or two. The intensity of her search left me free to peruse at my own pace. And that’s how I found The Scarf.
The Eric Bompard boutique in Printemps carries only women’s products, but the Department draws no faux lines to impede its search for inspiration. And this scarf was inspiring. Half a metre wide and a metre and a half long; it was an inky blue and made of thin, light, warm French Cashmire. But it was the plump Polka Dots that made it truly different. Substantial in size and yet perfectly placed, so as not to overwhelm; in red, blue, green, orange, and white; the dots danced across the dark background.
The scarf could perk up a dark grey jacket, enliven a blue blazer, and soften a leather coat. Worn alone, a simple blue shirt would be elevated, a plain raincoat would be enhanced with a splash of colour and tweed would be given new twinkle. The scarf was perfect. And while Mssr Bompard had, in his wisdom, designed this miracle scarf for women, it was knotted around my rough neck as it swept out of the store and along Blvd Haussmann.
But I soon realized as I continued my quest through the streets of Paris, and again upon my return home, that I was wrong about the scarf’s potential. I had made the mistake so many make when it comes to a truly potent fashion purchase. I had underestimated its power.
My lack of trust in the depth of its allure became more pointed every time I ventured out wearing it. Everywhere I went, my scarf was greeted with smiles, comments, and admiring looks. From security guards at major corporations, receptionists on my way into appointments, friends, and complete strangers, men, women and children, all ages, and all races have all stopped in their tracks to register their affection for my neck wear. Some stand there, initially speechless. Others simply declare it to be the most beautiful scarf they have ever seen.
And yet, it isn’t simply the scarf…How could it be? It IS a lovely, jaunty, tastefully designed scarf, no question. But it was not so stunningly declarative, or shockingly unusual. Its universal and enthusiastic appeal was a puzzle.
I had bought it, I’ll admit, on a bit of a self-dare. Having always been intrigued by the potential of the polka dot but never having found the right vehicle, I laid my money down with a now or never flourish. I see now what I did was much grander, much broader in scope. It wasn’t the scarf, it was attitude. I had stepped well out of my own comfort zone. I had even gone beyond the maker’s initially intention. But I think in the end the public response to my private leap of faith was more about the subtle but powerful message sent by act itself. It was not so much the thing but the willingness to do that is projected. It is not the clothing but the daring. That is what people sense. And that is what is irresistible.
How many other such simple acts of fashion are waiting to be committed? How many other new combinations, how many quiet yet powerful declarations can be made?
It was about so much more than buying a new, intriguing, well made garment. It is about confidence. It is about a quiet sly joy. It is the fascination of the conjurer. It is about confounding expectations, both yours and those you will encounter.