I’ve been passing New York designer Norma Kamali’s West 56th Street store for as long as I’ve been going to the city, and feel an “only in Manhattan” thrill whenever I see the vast panels of billowing gold fabric flying from the flagpoles above the door. I always thought Kamali only made clothes for women, until I interviewed the artist and designer Gaetano Pesce for the Aesthete page of How To Spend it, and he told me that he buys one of her unisex Sleeping Bag coats ($800) every winter. While the now-classic garment – which first appeared when Kamali turned an actual sleeping bag into a coat in 1973 – could last a lifetime, new colourways appear every year, making each a collector’s item.
Pesce’s recommendation put the coat on my radar. It has quite a history – the doormen at Studio 54 used to wear it, and back in 1983 a group of customers wearing the Kamali classic gathered on Wall Street as a flashmob to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
I finally bought my own Sleeping Bag coat (in black rather than the current season’s hot red) last year. The design is only available in two sizes: XS/S or a M/L. I have the latter. I’m a man who is 6ft tall and with a build I’d call substantial; it reaches down to my ankles and engulfs me. It’s immensely comforting and, of course, warm – although I like to go out in the button-less garment with a bag across my shoulder to keep it closed, rather than use the more feminine waist-tie it comes with. The coat is incredibly light, and can be rolled up tightly inside a pillow case for storage.
Functionality aside, my coat has received more attention than any other item in my wardrobe. I get at least one compliment from a stranger each time I wear it. Comments vary, but the general consensus is that I look as much like an assassin from a science fiction film as I do “very cosy indeed”. I’m happy with both, as much as I am with the coat itself.