This cashmere sweater-dress was the first micro-skirt to hit Ulan Bator's Gandan Monastery.
In June 1966, I paid a call on John Anstey, editor of London's Weekend Telegraph Magazine - the supplement to the Daily Telegraph. It was the beginning of the most adventurous, risky part of my fifty year photographic career, both physically and creatively. Anstey and I chatted politely for a while and then he pulled out a bottle of Scotch. Our acquaintance began to warm rapidly, and before long he asked if I would be interested in doing an assignment for him. Only later, in the sober light of day, did I appreciate the masterful way he had played me, for before I felt his office I had committed myself to going to Outer Mongolia (a country I could not even place on a map) to photograph high fashions - a specialty I had often fancied, but never yet attempted
The editorial point in going to Mongolia was that the fashions we were going to shoot were cashmere, and cashmere wool comes from the underbelly of the Mongolian goat. I set out from London with the fashion editor, Cherry Twiss, and we met up with the model, Samantha Jones, in Paris. From there we took Air France to Moscow, where we hooked up with an East German tourist guide, known to us as Knobloch, who had an agreement with the Mongolian government to bring East German tourists into the country. You had to admire Knobloch. He knew the system. The fact that I was an American, the fashion editor English, and the model Canadian posed no problem for him. Nor did the fact that all the flights in the direction of Mongolia were fully booked. One week later, visas in hand, we were on an Aeroflot flight to Omsk, Siberia, and four puzzled and disgruntled Czechs were left standing on the tarmac.
In Omsk, we stopped to refuel and spend the night, the entire complement of passengers bedding down together on cots in a hangar-like structure that passed for a hotel. The next morning we flew on to Irkutsk, where we changed to Air Mongol for the final leg of the journey. As we were boarding the last plane, Samantha noticed a mechanic standing atop a ladder and banging one of the engines with the back of a wrench. She was ready to abort the entire shoot there and then, and it took all the diplomacy I could muster to persuade her to entrust her life to Mongolian aeronautical know-how.
On arrival in Ulan Bator, the customs officials were bothered by my American passport, and demanded to know of Knobloch why he was bringing an American into Mongolia. Never at a loss, he explained that I just happened to have an American passport, but I was in fact Lebanese – an explanation that seemed to satisfy their bureaucratic minds.
The next two weeks were to test John Anstey's wisdom in sending a travel photographer to do a fashion assignment."
Series: Cashmere Fashions in Mongolia 1966
Image rights: © Fred J. Maroon
About Fred Maroon
American, September 24, 1924 - November 5, 2001, New Brunswick, New Jersey, based in Washington, DC, United States