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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Tuesday May 21, 2024
Tuesday May 21, 2024

Illegal elegance: the world’s most expensive fabric you can’t own

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Shahtoosh, a forbidden textile made from endangered Tibetan antelope, lures fashion enthusiasts into legal limbo

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In the realm of luxurious fabrics, shahtoosh emerges as the forbidden fruit, surpassing the opulence of cashmere and silk. However, its allure comes with a hefty price tag – not just monetarily, but legally. This exclusive textile, crafted from the hair of the endangered Tibetan antelope known as chiru, has become a symbol of rarity and finesse.

The soft texture and feather-light quality of shahtoosh, in contrast to its South American counterpart vicuña, have fueled its desirability. Yet, owning, buying, or selling this exquisite fabric transforms individuals into unwitting criminals. In the United States, such actions can result in severe penalties – a six-figure fine and up to five years of imprisonment.

The source of shahtoosh’s enchantment lies in its origins. Unlike traditional pashmina, which comes from Tibetan mountain goats, shahtoosh is derived from the underfur of the chiru, a Tibetan antelope species. Tragically, obtaining this precious wool requires the killing of chiru, leading to the animal’s endangered status since the 1970s.

The illicit demand for shahtoosh skyrocketed in the 1990s, reminiscent of the pashmina craze. Pashminas, initially brightly colored cashmere shawls, evolved into a fashion staple. Shahtoosh, however, took luxury to unparalleled heights, with poachers fetching exorbitant prices, reaching up to $15,000.

Governments worldwide intervened to curb its importation, and the United States implemented strict regulations against owning shahtoosh. The fabric’s ban extends beyond its scarcity; knowingly bringing it into the country is a legal offense.

In 2001, high-profile women, including supermodel Christie Brinkley, faced subpoenas for owning shahtoosh. Despite its illegal status, the fabric’s superfine threads and heavenly texture continue to captivate fashion enthusiasts. Elle Decor’s source aptly described it, “It feels like it’s been woven from the hair of an angel fallen from heaven.”

For those enticed by shahtoosh’s ethereal charm, the legal repercussions serve as a stark reminder – indulging in this forbidden luxury may come at an unimaginable cost.

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