Silk scarves are passé? Not so! A young woman from Avignon turns them into every fashionista’s trendy must-have accessories
As every stylish French woman will tell you, a silk scarf is one of the quintessential tools for pulling off a chic and polished look. The favoured Hermès and Gucci squares are as conservative as they are expensive though…. But despair ye not! Ana Masse, an Avignon-based textile artist, has created a range of stylish scarves and bandanas that are every bit as cool and modern as their wearer, and gentler on the average wallet. Her use of bold colours on noble materials strikes the exact right note between a 21st century statement piece and timeless elegance. And her designs capture the essence of magnificent, classy, confident women like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, or Sophie Marceau, all famous for knowing the secret of sending flirty messages with a simple piece of fabric.
We wanted to know more about this talented artist. Turns out that Ana Masse is quite the global citizen. Starting out in her native Ukraine 35 years ago, her adult life first detoured to Sydney, Australia for several years where Ana studied business and met her French husband-to-be Sébastien. Although quite happy down-under, the couple decided in 2015 to return to the South of France to be closer to family. After brief stays in the St. Tropez area and in Aix-en-Provence, Sébastien found a job in Avignon and Ana followed along.
She had always been interested in the arts and dabbled in different styles and techniques, looking to find one that would really speak to her. And one day in 2016, when attending a painting masterclass, “silk painting found me!”, she says. She started concentrating on the craft and soon inundated friends and family with her creations, until they encouraged her to start commercializing her work. With her husband’s support behind her, she quickly made a name for herself via Instagram and her Etsy store. And by now, her scarves are flying off the virtual shelves, and into the hands of thrilled customers. The unanimous five star reviews speak for themselves.
Ana is inspired by the Provençal colours, light, and nature… the poppy and lavender fields near her house, or sunsets reflecting off the centuries-old stones of the city’s papal architecture. She instinctively understands how to tell a story with a few expressive strokes of her brush. While her style is reductive and simplified, her images are so striking that they seem to appeal to all five senses. Apart from the floral motifs she so loves, the versatile artist also designs humorous and whimsical cartoons of the dwellers of the Animal Kingdom. And she accepts commissioned work – immortalizing a beloved pet’s likeness for example, recreating a cityscape, or letting your (or her) imagination run loose… Although she typically sticks with scarves, she will do other products like men’s ties or pillow cases on custom order.
But regardless of the chosen motive, what her clientele from all over the world – and many of them are loyal repeat customers – appreciates most are the vivid and bold colours. She uses these to brighten up a dark day and a grey world, and to make people smile. The fluidity and sheen of silk adds another layer of pure magic, turning the scarves into small jewels and pieces of art.
Silk painting may look relaxing but it is a difficult and unforgiving technique to master. The slightest mistake shows and there is no way to undo it. Ana starts out with a piece of white silk on which she draws her motif. Then gutta, a solvent-based substance made from latex, is applied to create boundaries around the individual elements of the design. This prevents the water-based colour to run away when applied to the fabric. It is a time-consuming process that requires great concentration. “Once you’re on it, you have to go from start to finish, and you cannot let yourself be distracted, as it is so easy to mess it up,” Ana explains.
With all the time, work, and savoir-faire that goes into creating these handmade pieces, one at a time, Ana’s prices are rather reasonable, starting at about €50 for a 65x65cm silk square. She loves what she does and takes it seriously. “It’s a passion and a job at the same time,” she tells us. And she firmly keeps her eyes on the goal of re-displaying her scarves in boutiques as she did before Covid stopped her in her tracks.
Christmas is not far off. If you are looking for a stylish and original present for your loved ones, or want to treat yourself to a well-deserved gift, the gem you’re after is surely hiding in Ana’s treasure box. You don’t even need to venture to the stores – Santa’s little helpers will ship worldwide for you. It’ll make a fabulous wardrobe accessory. It can even be turned into a playful headwrap. But chances are, you’ll find your scarf so gorgeous that you want to frame and hang it on your wall as it behooves a piece of art.
All photos by and © Quentin Derouen