Vintage Astraka high end black Russian Cossack military fit & flare dramatic coat brocade tapestry chenille faux fur long 1980s
I don't want to sell this to anyone who doesn't appreciate it. So if you don't want to read about its heritage, then off you go! But if however you truly appreciate vintage quality, read on for the story of this beautiful romantic coat Made in England but inspired by Eastern Europe, from the 1980s...those were the days eh? Heady days of glamour and romance for sure; even the goth girls were elegant and this coat wow for them too.
It is suitable for a UK 8 to size 10 or slim waisted 12. A fabulous fit and flare with such presence swagger and drama, it is low calf length not quite to ankles (I am a 5ft 5 ins) and all glamour and power. The half belt to the tapesty/brocade look textured fur and contrasting faux sheared beaver, and its military great coat or swanky lapels option of fastening, gold coloured buttons, are all such fab features and it is as new exceptional condition. The faux fur while synthetic acrylic, is 100% cotton backed and this is the sign of quality faux fur it is different class from modern synthetics. Padded shoulders with balloon sleeves and tight cuffs, combine to make it so exquisite and a masterpiece for makers Astraka.
" Once upon a time there was a tavern...
Those were the days my friend...
I thought they'd never end...."
or if you prefer
"We rode on a troika with sleigh bells tinkling....
With the road long and steep, in the moonlit night,
And with this song that flies off... ringing"
The song Mary Hopkin sang in the 1960s 'Those were the Days' is actually a Russian one composed by Boris Fomin in the 1920s, and covered with the Ukrainian title 'Davni Chasy', in 1988 by top British indie band The Wedding Present whose 'Why are you Being so Reasonable Now' was released the same year.
Sadly for Astraka, 1988 would be their last year in business. They went into receivership shortly after fulfilling their last huge order to...Russia. The company had enjoyed big success in exporting faux fur coats to Russia since the early 1960s when the Bolshoi Ballet took their coats home with them and their first £60 000 order was received from Russia. 1977 this had increased to £300 000 orders; both substantial amounts for the time.
Astraka had begun as Alfred Morris Furs, in London, in 1898 and moved to Shildon in Co. Durham toward the end of WWII, making a huge success from the craze for beaver lamb or mouton ie sheepskin furs (a high sheen fur polishing technology developed in Hungary 1930s). They continued with real furs and sheepskin right through to the 1960s and you occasionally come across one of theirs especially in real astrakhan or sheepskin today. But after the war faux nylon fur invented 1939 saw a boom as it was a very cheap option. They needed a new name and took it from the 'Astraka' from Astrakhan (or Karakul) a very expensive Russian lamb fur. Their faux furs retailed at just £6 in the early 1970s. By the late 70s however they had refined many of their styles and gone upmarket, and their furs were selling in Harrods and Fenwicks for example, with designers like Anne Tyrell working with them. Ironic real astrakhan was being imported in to Britain throughout the 20th century and a British company was exporting high end imitation back to them!
No doubt the exports to Russia influenced many of their styles, including some fabulous fitted cossack look jackets in the late 1970s early 1980s with huge cap epaulet shoulders and fitted and belted to the waist, in faux astrakhan and faux sheared beaver contrast collars and cuffs. But this coat doesn't look the same part of that collection so I think this later 1980s. Though the coat looks like faux astrakhan from a distance, it is 'tapestry' faux fur- almost a brocade look like raised texture and design.
Shildon was also famous for the maiden journey of Locomotion Number 1 the Stephenson brothers first steam engine with tickets being sold in the local pub, and in 1836 the first Steam Train was delivered to Russia from the Sheldon works, a year before Russia produced its own. Shildon would remain the world's foremost centre for production of locomotives and carriages for over a century.
And you know what, you can't help put this coat on, and feel you are about to board a steam train in Anna Karenina of Doctor Zhivago, or even Lenin's famous train, it is that beautiful and so romantic.
So when the works closed in 1984, most of the Astraka factory girls husbands lost their jobs so the closure of Astraka in 1988 was a double blow. A tragedy for the area but it is so important that we appreciate the endeavor and effort of those who made Britain, and that town was a colossus of working class effort in that respect.
So thank you ladies for all that great heritage and the testimony to your efforts is having such fine vintage faux fur coats that remain with us as the cheap imports that finally were your undoing were not the same and have not largely stood the test of time. You made some exceptional pieces, and in all that catalogue of beautiful styles, this one in particularly is simply amazing the best I have ever seen. I hope some fashionista will appreciate and wear with pride and care , real swagger and style, as you intended, and even save for the next generation. I salute you girls.
top of page
bottom of page