The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, June 11, 2002  

Visionary Gucci Designer Corners Fez Market

Today we learn that the former king of Afghanistan, Mohammad Zaher Shah, has decided not to seek the presidency of his beloved country.

At a news conference yesterday, Zaher Shah praised Hamid Karzai, chairman of the Afghani interim government, who enjoys the strong support of the Bush administration. Karzai is widely expected to win an easy victory in the upcoming elections.

“I’m appreciative of the service rendered by Hamid Karzai and fully support his candidacy as head of the transitional administration,” Zaher Shah said through his spokesman, according to a report in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Karzai returned the praise, calling the king “the father of this nation.”

The virtually certain leadership of Karzai creates an opportunity of historic proportions.

Forget about what a meaningful political role for Zaher Shah would have done to create stability in Afghanistan, particularly with respect to bringing support to a new government from the country’s ethnic Pashtuns.

Disregard the long-term foreign policy implications that will grow out of the perception that the U.S. hand-picked Afghanistan’s leadership.

Ignore Alexander Thier, spokesman for the International Crisis Group, an international humanitarian organization, who suggested American support for Karzai was heavy-handed, that the push to take Zaher Shah out of the running “will undermine what will happen in the loya jirga [Ed.: The Grand Assembly.] in the next few days,” and that Afghanis “are concerned that the outcome is preordained.”

The real crisis has nothing to do with foreign policy or international security. Rather, the most important issue is that which confronts the world of high fashion. And the most significant question in that rarefied community is this: How will designers respond to the challenge laid down by Tom Ford, who has indicated he draws inspiration for his men’s wear collection from Karzai?

Ford, the creative director and chief designer at the House of Gucci, in January described Karzai as “the chicest man on the planet today,” a man “whose look is very elegant and very proud.” (Photo gallery courtesy of the BBC.)

Ford, as sharp a businessman as he is a designer, has cornered the market on the diffusion of Afghan fashion, including that for karacul hats, a sort of fez made from aborted lamb fetuses.

We eagerly await the response from Armani, Prada, and Versace.

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