World’s most expensive cloth dubbed ‘the forbidden fruit of fabrics’ is ILLEGAL to own – but it was big in the 90s

THE world’s most expensive textile dubbed as “the forbidden fruit of fabrics” is illegal to own and can land you in prison for five years.

Shahtoosh is made from the hair of the chiru – an endangered Tibetan antelope – and was at the peak of fashion in the 90s.

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Shahtoosh can land you with a six-figure fine or a five-year prison termCredit: US Fish and Wildlife Service
The rare fabric is made of fur of an endangered Tibetan antelope Chiru

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The rare fabric is made of fur of an endangered Tibetan antelope ChiruCredit: Alamy
The cloth goes for up to £16,000 on black market

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The cloth goes for up to £16,000 on black marketCredit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Its appeal grew in the 1990s with the rise of pashminas, brightly coloured cashmere shawls made from hair of goats from the Himalayas.

Every self-respected fashionista strove to show off an exotic clothing piece around their shoulders.

Soon pashmina became so wide-spread, the word was used to describe any scarf or shawl that kept your neck warm.

At the peak of its trend, fake pashminas could be bought from street vendors for dirt cheap prices.

Resembling pashmina in appearance but more delicate and soft, the shahtoosh maintained its elite status thanks to a hefty price tag.

But today the pricey fabric will leave you out of pocket for a six-figure fine that you might land for owning it.

Buying, selling or owning the rare material makes you a criminal and you might even end up with a prison-term of five years in the US.

Governments around the world began cracking down production of this cloth after it almost led to an extinction of the Tibetan antelope.

As undomesticated wild animals couldn’t be shorn, they had to be killed to obtain their fur.

By the second half of the 20th century, the population of the Chiru declined by 90 per cent, classifying them as critically endangered species.

In 1979, shahtoosh was banned from the international trade under the Washington Convention.

The antelopes faced an extremely high risk of extinction up until 2016 when their situation slightly improved.

Shahtoosh remains an object of great desire for its rarity and extremely soft texture.

Elle Decor’s source said: “It feels like it’s been woven from the hair of an angel fallen from heaven.”

On the black market, poachers sell the shawls for around £4,000 to almost £16,000.

And they were still advertised and boldly displayed in high-end stores up until late 1998.

In 2001, it was reported that a group of high-profile women, including supermodel Christie Brinkley had been issued subpoenas for owning shahtoosh.

At the time, socialite Denise Hale told Vanity Fair: “Darling, everyone I know has one or two. Or three or four or five. This is the first time I hear it’s illegal.”

What are the differences between Pashmina and Shahtoosh?

Shahtoosh is wool while Pashmina is the crafting of Cashmere.

Pashmina is the intricate crafting done in the Indian region of Kashmir.

It refers to brightly coloured shawls made from hairs of goats from the Himalayas.

The material that Pashminas are made of are also widely known as Cashmere.

Shahtoosh was also hand-woven in India, but it was smuggled there from Tibet.

Shahtoosh refers to a fabric made of fur of the Tibetan antelopes- chirus.

Due to production of shahtoosh, Chiru's population decreased by 90% in the 90s

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Due to production of shahtoosh, Chiru’s population decreased by 90% in the 90sCredit: Alamy
Socialite Denise Hale (pictured with a scarf of unknown origin) was previously issued a subpoena for owning a shahtoosh

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Socialite Denise Hale (pictured with a scarf of unknown origin) was previously issued a subpoena for owning a shahtooshCredit: Getty


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