As Emma Peel in “The Avengers,” actress Diana Rigg was known to rock a cat suit. But she also often sported a scarf, especially around her head, to protect her dark glossy locks while fighting crime on the go in her sporty little convertible.
The scarves the 1960s British TV series star wore were designed by Richard Allan, who, though not well-known today, was a household name throughout the decade. Characterized by their bold, abstract or psychedelic designs — screen-printed in monochromes or striking colors — his hand-finished silk squares were carried by Harrods, Harvey Nichols and other major retailers in the U.K. Along with designing his own line, Allan collaborated with Schiaparelli and Yves Saint Laurent and held distribution rights to YSL scarves in Europe.
Founded in 1962, the brand became a family business, with Allan’s daughter Cate working alongside him. And business continued strong until the early 1980s, when Allan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 52. He stopped designing in 1982.
Fast forward to 2013. After returning to England from a life abroad in the States, daughter Cate revisited her father’s designs and turned them into limited-edition art prints. She hadn’t intended to revive the family firm. “When I re-launched the art prints, people weren’t wearing scarves,” she recalled. “But as I saw people wearing them more and more lately, it was a trigger to do scarves again.”
Allan put together a sample collection, subtly updating some of her dad’s offbeat colors (for a more contemporary take on offbeat). Looking for a manufacturer, she reached out to The Echo Design Group. The family-run company’s matriarch, accessories doyenne Dorothy Roberts, had known Richard Allan in his heyday. Her son Steven Roberts, Echo’s ceo, liked what he saw — and thought, why not partner instead of just manufacture? “There aren’t many scarf companies with that kind of archive and rich story and we love that!” he said.
The new/old scarf line, with 14 styles, will launch at Bloomingdale’s in September. Retailing at $165 to $365, the scarves hit a much higher price point than the average Echo offering, which starts at $49. But the company is hoping to target higher-end shops with this collection. As for Allan, she’s confident she’s picked the right partner to revive her dad’s legacy. “I knew if I was going to do this, I needed to do it the right way,” she said. “Echo sees it for what it is and where it can go.”