O.K., Lady, Drop the Shawl

In July, dozens of the ultra-thin ultra-rich, including Nan Kempner, Christie Brinkley, and Beth Rudin De Woody, were handed subpoenas by U.S. marshals. Their shahtooshes–exquisite, expensive shawls made from endangered Tibetan antelope–were illegal, they learned. While some socialites surrender their wraps, others are going underground.

  1. It is probably safe to say that the last thing the dowagers, heiresses, and trophy wives of New York’s high society were expecting as they lunched on lobster salad at the Bathing Corporation in Southampton this past summer, or worked out with their personal trainers by their pools in East Hampton, or packed their Vuittons for the Paris couture shows, was a flurry of subpoenas from the United States District Court in Newark, New Jersey, of all places. But that’s exactly what more than one hundred socialites and celebrities, including fashion icon Nan Kempner, supermodel Christie Brinkley, and arts patroness Beth Rudin De Woody, had hand-delivered to them at their country houses or Manhattan apartments by U.S. marshals in July: subpoenas “for person and documents or objects,” ordering them to testify before a grand jury sitting in Newark and to bring with them “any and all shahtoosh shawls, other shahtoosh items, and items made from the Tibetan antelope, chiru or ibex.”

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it seems, is conducting an investigation into the illegal importation and sale of shahtooshes, the ultra-soft, ultra-thin, ultra-warm handwoven shawls from Kashmir, which in the past decade have become almost a fetish among very rich women, and a few male dandies, from Bel Air to Belgravia. Also known as “ring shawls” because they are so fine that a standard one-meter-by-two-meter shawl can be pulled whole through a finger ring, shahtooshes generally sell for from $2,000 to ...