Shawl or nothing; n THE STYLE POLICE n

The fashion mafia are in ecstasies over pashmina. It's a lot of fuss for a woolly scarf, says James Sherwood

There comes a time every year when you have to shout "Says who?" to a trend. Unless you've been holed-up in a plush rehabilitation clinic (stand up Kate Moss), you can't have failed to hear about the much-hyped pashmina scarf.

Many a talking head in the fashion industry has been photographed stroking their silk/cashmere muff and purring, "How did I survive those gruelling Concorde moments before I bought my pashmina?". Photographer Mario Testino, model Helena Christensen and designer Matthew Williamson are all members of this petit style clique.

Let Style Police elucidate before going in for the kill. Pashmina is a fabric, roughly 65 per cent finest cashmere and 35 per cent silk, which is softer to the touch than a cloud of chinchilla. A "pashmina" is a voluminous shawl, predominantly sourced in Kathmandu, made of aforementioned fabric which said fashion mafia drape elegantly around the thorax.

In December Vogue, we were let into half a secret. William Welstead - "The pashmina milkman" - makes a very comfortable living lurking outside Conde Nast with a colour sample chart of pashmina off-cuts tucked into his mac lining. That darned elusive Welstead will supply pashmina addicts with their fix from his regular buying trips to Kathmandu for one third of the pounds 300 kosher price tag.

Rather disingenuously, Vogue reports, "Movie stars and moguls are privy to [Welstead's] mobile number but the rest of us can buy one of his pashminas, pounds 230, from The Cross." Come now, don't be coy. Shouldn't that be Liz Hurley, the entire staff of Vogue and every PR in London are privy to this magic mobile number? Fashion loves nothing more than the "We know something you don't" line. This might explain why the industry has been in a lather about the pashmina all year and nobody took a blind bit of notice. It's hardly a secret on par with "who murdered Marilyn?" that The Scotch House has been bumping out delicious pashmina scarves with pretty glass bead trim for pounds 95 for a dog's age.

Being the season of goodwill and all, Style Police is not going to savage the pashmina in Scrooge-like fashion. No, the point is that "must-haves" like the pashmina or the Fendi "Baguette" are invariably "don't care" issues for most of us. Frankly, must-haves quickly lose their fashion bite. You wanna wear it first, milk the applause and then give it to a relative for Christmas before the wannabes catch-up.

There is nothing like the dash of a scarf thrown over the shoulder in an insouciant fashion. Style Police was the first to applaud the return of the stole this autumn/winter. We loved it when you bought antique mink stoles from the chazza shops. We gave a laudatory whoop when you started buying fine mohair picnic blankets and draping them round the shoulder like a latter-day Babushka. We practically reached orgasm when Browns Focus first imported Poem Crown silk duvet-padded scarves.

The catwalk revived the Fifties cape and, despite some idiot christening it a Shrug, we went wild for this new addition to Nineties fashion. Shoulders were practically invented for a theatrical drape of fabric. A pashmina may float your boat but to the rest of the world it still looks like a scarf. The real story for autumn/winter is the way you improvise. Each to their own, and never let it be said Style Police advocates cloning.

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