When hot-flashes, heatwaves and mosquitos team up to spoil your summer holidays, there is only one solution to keep you cool and unbothered: a folding fan. This chic statement has been the most effective and glamorous ventilation system for centuries and can add a touch of mystery and romance to your look (no batteries or electricity required).
Designs and materials have varied with politics, social changes and fashion. Still, the fan always was an object of breathtaking beauty; a timeless fashion accessory that conveys elegance and femininity, and expresses personal style.
A bit of history
Often associated with Spanish flamenco dances or geisha performances, when they first arrived in Europe from China and Japan, hand fans were considered toys for the elite. According to historians of the Fan Museum, the first one in the world exclusively dedicated to fans, Queen Elizabeth I, in particular, loved posing for portraits holding an elaborate fan-made of exotic feathers and studded with jewels. Victorians also developed a secret language of this fine accessory: a fan held in front of the face means “follow me,” for instance. And a fan placed near the left ear is a signal that the woman wants her suitor to leave her alone.
Throughout history, the fan has been adapted to fit its context. Nowadays, this accessory is a less exclusive object used in many different ways and situations; ranging from pop videos to fashion shows (John Galliano, Gucci, Chanel, Dior), photoshoots, and even advertising campaigns. The burlesque artist, Dita Von Teese has also reignited its erotic associations through her strip revue, where the fan both reveals and conceals. Beyoncé proudly displayed hers at an NBA All-Stars basketball game in New York, while Rihanna’s Fenty line for sportswear label Puma showed off a layered over lighter pink lace fan with scalloped edges.
Choosing the right fan
Choosing these little accessories isn’t a straightforward matter, they come in a variety of shapes, materials and colours. Versatile and trendy, you can wear them with your favourite pair of jeans or combine them with your sundress. What used to be a casual look before using a fan, will twist it into a more elegant one, while also provide you with a fresh draft if things get too hot in the summer.
We recommend stocking up on inexpensive colourful hand fans, keeping one in every handbag. Etsy is filled with thousands of them in endless designs and materials, from classic Asian motifs to traditional lace to whimsical and modern takes. Of course, there are still fan makers practising this art at a couture level, while high-street stores including Accessorize continue to sell them commercially.
If you are looking for something more elegant, British brand Fern Fans, founded in spring 2017 by Daisy Hoppen and Amanda Borberg, offers a line of high-style folding fans made in Spain from birch wood and cotton.
I have always loved a traditional hand fan – Hoppen explains to Vogue when asked why she chose to design this particular accessory-. We spent our summers in Majorca, and all of the ladies there, young and old, were always carrying their fans. Some were ornate and had lace or floral designs, while others were simple and made from wood and cotton.
On the other hand, if you are up to a more Marie Antoinette-esque style, all drama and maximalism with a contemporary twist, Duvelleroy might be the answer to your luxury dreams. Revivifying a beautiful Paris based couture establishment founded in 1827, modernized it in 2014 and made it the cherished favourite of celebrities such as Katy Perry, Cara Delevingne, and Lady Gaga, both Eloise and Raphaelle de Panafieu have managed to do the unthinkable. They both decided they would continue with the traditional craftsmanship of the house with couture fans and also offer a more affordable Designer Line.
Whether you will choose a classic or modern one, a luxury or basic style, stick to a fan made in wood and paper. According to Japanese tradition, the connection between the handle of the fan and the paper represents the place where life begins, and all of its wooden paths are the different roads that life can take to bring good fortune and happiness.