The connoisseur - Red Army fabrics

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In the second of his guest posts, Moncef Nasri continues his account of the unusual and unpredictable world of professional connoisseurship. As a specialist in sourcing the very best and most obscure items for some of the world’s most successful and demanding people, he uses his knowledge and experience to fulfil the brief, no matter how specific:


It is always winter somewhere. The notion of a seasonal wardrobe is redundant when your business interests and leisure pursuits straddle the globe.

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A coat is the minimum needed to be prepared at all times for the most extreme cold you might face if you find yourself regularly crossing the equator and leaving a summer behind. The ultimate outer garment? The essence of a coat is in the cloth so this was my starting point when asked to commission something bespoke for the worst of either hemisphere.

Ask anyone to think of somewhere that is extremely cold and most come back with Siberia. The average annual temperature there is below zero, and parts of the region have what amounts to just one month of summer. With this in mind, in searching for a fabric of true distinction I looked to Russia.

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Ultimately, through a route the precise details of which I hope you will understand I need to keep private, I sourced some of what the Russian army uses to cloak the rank of General and above. The unique qualities of this cloth, which I unearthed finally in an unmarked otherwise non-descript Moscow building, are what enabled me to have made the supreme antidote to the iciest of blasts; namely a coat that is warm and offers full protection from the wind, yet is also light enough to feel easy across the shoulders, and unobtrusive whether seated or standing.

Today’s Red Army manages to achieve this combination in a single garment because of an exceptional density to the cloth used. With an incredibly close weave the wool strands are bound so tightly together that they provide the warmth of a thick blanket. Equally, the lightness of the individual threads means the weight is no greater than say Super 100 yarn, or moleskin and corduroy, neither of which would provide adequate warmth.

An alternative to a coat of this most elusive fabric would be from the likes of Loro Piana, which specializes in Cashmere and Vicuna that both provide great warmth albeit with more weight.

Loro Piana also offers jackets with strips of microfibre sandwiched between inner and outer layers of wool. This gives the garments a waterproof quality. Likewise some Zenga outerwear.

Actually, the Russian army coat cloth offers protection from pretty much whatever nature can throw at you. Instead of microfibre strips, that can be suffocating and limit the body’s ability to breathe, strands of this are woven into the wool so the fabric has an unoppressive water-resistancy. The microfibre is not apparent to the naked eye. Burn the cloth and the combination of smoke and smell gives a clue along with crease-proof buoyancy. Bulletproof? I am not suggesting this is tested, but I can’t help wondering.

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