Kim Jong-il's Mao suit is anything but affordable and utilitarian, according to a defector who used to supply luxury goods to the North Korean leader. "It should be called a luxury suit instead," said the defector, who requested anonymity.
While working for the regime, his job was to tour the country's embassies and consulates overseas and buy goods for Kim. "In the early 1990s, I was ordered to buy fabric for the dear leader and went to France to buy 60 yards of high-quality, cashmere and silk fabric produced by Scabal of London," he said. "I paid US$300 per yard, which came to $18,000."
About four yards of fabric are needed to make a suit, so the price of the cloth alone for Kim's suit amounted to $1,200. The North Korean leader apparently hands out fabric as a gift to his closest aides. "Even in terms of South Korean standards, that would be quite a luxurious product," the defector said. "But for the average North Korean it is unimaginable."
But expensive price tags alone do not guarantee products a spot on Kim's wish list. "There are plenty of other fabrics that are even more expensive than Scabal," the defector said. "Kim Jong-il developed a liking for Scabal, because he heard foreign celebrities enjoy wearing clothes made using the fabric."
Park Je-hyun, who owns a tailor shop in the trendy Cheongdam-dong neighborhood in Seoul, said, "Scabal is not a top-notch fabric, but it doesn't wrinkle easily, which is why people on the move like it." Fans include former U.S. President George W. Bush and movie star Will Smith.
At one time Kim apparently only wore shoes made by Italian cobbler Moreschi. "In early 2000, high-ranking North Korean government officials heard a rumor that the Dear Leader wears only Moreschi shoes, so they scoured Moreschi stores whenever they went on overseas trips," the defector said.
Kim is picky about his luxury brands. According to the defector, he has a penchant for Perrier bottled water, Martell Cognac and imported menthol cigarettes. One foreign diplomat said, "During his visit to China in 2005, Kim Jong-il was delighted to see bottles of Perrier that Chinese officials had prepared for him and asked his aides how the Chinese knew he liked Perrier."
The defector said, "I used to go to Switzerland a lot to buy large numbers of Omega watches. They weren't all for Kim Jong-il, but as rewards for his staff. He added, "Kim Jong-il doesn't need a watch. If he wants to know the time, he can just ask his underlings."