An iconic coat with collectable appeal

Norma Kamali’s Sleeping Bag coat has a cult following for men as well as women

The author wearing his Norma Kamali Sleeping Bag coat
The author wearing his Norma Kamali Sleeping Bag coat | Image: Mark C O’Flaherty

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.

Norma Kamali knee-length nylon Sleeping Bag coat, £671
Norma Kamali knee-length nylon Sleeping Bag coat, £671

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.

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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.

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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.

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