The Leather Scarf by Wayne James: Fashion’s Newest Invention

A Leather Scarf by Designer Wayne James:  Fashion’s Newest Invention

In the uber-creative world of fashion, where artsy types with their quirky ideas abound, St. Croix-born fashion designer Wayne James has done the next-to-impossible:  invent something truly new. And James’ invention is…: The leather scarf.

The “buttery-soft” accessory drapes and folds like silk. It measures 18” wide and 72” long and is made from one, continuous, seamless cut of super-thin top-grain cowhide. Unveiled in June of 2021, James’ leather scarf has already begun turning heads—and necks—in the world of fashion. It is available exclusively at the designer’s recently launched online Concepts Store,  and comes in two earthy color options, a rich “cognac” and subtle “natural.” The heirloom-quality scarf, which is guaranteed to last a lifetime—and then some—is priced at $860.  A 20% discount is offered to qualified shoppers.

Leather has been used, from time immemorial, to clad the human body from head to toe: hats, jackets, belts, trousers, footwear.  But for some reason, designers have never thought of or figured out a way to create the leather scarf—despite its obvious capacity for providing warmth and protection from the wintery element.  In 2021, however, when James sourced an exquisite imported leather that flows like fabric, he jumped at the opportunity to execute an idea that had been on his drawing board for over 20 years, patiently awaiting the right leather.

“Anyone could have thought of a leather scarf.  But no one else did.  And that’s what makes this all so exciting and all so special. It is nice to be distinguished for creating something unique in an industry filled with creative geniuses,” James said.

Throughout fashion history, there have been only a few such “firsts” that could be definitively attributed to a particular designer.  The today-ubiquitous zipper was invented by Elias Howe in 1851; improved by Whitcomb L. Judson 40 years later in 1893; and transformed by Gideon Sundback in 1913 into the Y-shaped implement that characterizes zippers today.  But it was not until 1923 that American industrialist B. F. Goodrich coined the onomatopoeic word, “zipper,” to describe the invention. The 1920s’ concept of the bias-cut garment belongs to Madelaine Vionnet (1857-1956), and  Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) is credited with the concept of “the little black dress.” In 1896, American John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers (1818), noticed that British polo players would use buttons to hold in place the collars of the long-sleeve Oxford cloth shirts in which the fast-paced sport was played. And returning “across pond” to America, he began producing Oxford cloth shirts with buttoned-down collars and called them “polo shirts.” Jean René Lacoste (1904-1996) debuted the other type of polo shirt—the short-sleeve, cotton piqué, knit ones—at the 1926 U.S. Open tennis tournament, causing a stir and establishing himself as a fashion icon. The miniskirt is generally regarded as the invention of British designer Mary Quant (1930-present), the animal skins worn by mankind’s cave-dwelling ancestors notwithstanding.

“The common thread of fashion’s greatest inventions is that they all should have been obvious to one’s designer-peers but for some strange reason were not. Call it luck, serendipity, genius, who knows,” James said.  “This leather scarf is one such creation.  Scarves of all types and fabrics have been around forever—from Hermés’ iconic silk ones, to J.Crew’s 2020 cashmere ones, to grandma’s handknit Christmas gift ones.  Now, there is the Wayne James leather scarf.  And I think it is going to eventually take its place amongst the great inventions of fashion,” James concluded.  

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