If Only I Hadn't Thrown Away My Afghan Coat

Article excerpt

TYPICAL. HAVING given precious cupboard space for years to a rail full of old clothes which I kept telling myself might come in handy one day, I finally shoved the lot into a bin bag and took it to the charity shop.

Included in this motley was the elaborately embroidered sheepskin coat bought years ago from a market in Mashad in northern Iran. Back in the Seventies every self-respecting flower-powered hippy had an Afghan coat acquired somewhere along the road to Kathmandu. I was no exception.

It was only when I got it home six months later that I realised my mistake. "There's an awful smell in the hall," my mother said. "Almost as if something has died and gone rotten."

You've guessed. It was my coat, my glamorous snow-white embroidered sheepskin, beside which an open sewer in a Moroccan soukh would have passed as Chanel No 5. I had it drycleaned, sprayed, deloused, reconditioned, but the more we did to it the worse it became. It was almost as if the sheep wasn't dead, just badly wounded, and needing its bandages changed.

Next time you have your carpets professionally cleaned, suggested a friend, get them to do your coat. No problem, said the carpet cleaner. He had just lifted a year's worth of lager, cigarette ash and vomit from the saloon bar carpet of the Rat and Carrot down the road. He was sure he could fix my coat, and did.

I mention this only because all the newspapers last week carried photographs of Hamid Karzai, the interim Afghan leader, on his recent visit to London sporting a long embroidered sheepskin job practically identical to mine. Their reports included rapturous comments from fashion editors extolling his elegance and predicting that by Easter the shops will be full of the ethnic look. Tom Ford, head of Gucci, is said to be so taken by Mr Karzai's wardrobe that that he is planning his new collection around it.

My personal style guru reliably informs me that we were heading that way long before Mr Karzai and his pet sheep hit town. The 11 September attacks had their effect on the fashion scene too. …