The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat

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In today’s world of fast fashion, is there a place for a handcrafted $50,000 coat?
 
When journalist Meg Lukens Noonan learned of an unthinkably expensive, entirely handcrafted overcoat that a fourth-generation tailor had made for one of his longtime clients, she set off on an adventure to understand its provenance, and from that impulse unspooled rich and colorful stories about its components, the centuries-old bespoke industry and its traditions, and the master craftsmen whose trade is an art form.
 
In The Coat Route, Noonan pieces together the creation of the coat in question, tracing its elements to their far-flung sources, from the remote mountains of Peru, where villagers shear vicunas—whose soft fleece is more coveted and rare than the finest cashmere—to the fabulous Florentine headquarters of Stefano Ricci, the world’s greatest silk designer; from the family-owned French fabric house Dormeuil, founded in 1842, which drapes kings, presidents, and movie stars to the 150-year-old English button-making firm that creates the ne plus ultra of fasteners out of Indian water-buffalo horn and the workshop of the master hand engraver who makes the eighteen-karat gold plaque that hangs inside the coat’s collar. We meet the dapper son-in-law of an Australian wine baron who commissions the coat’s creation, and we come to know John Cutler, one of the top bespoke tailors in the world, who works his magic with scissors and thread out of his Sydney shop, redolent of cedar and English wool.
 
Featuring a cast of offbeat, obsessed, and wildly entertaining characters, The Coat Route presents a rich tapestry of local masters, individual artisans, and family-owned companies that have stood against the tide of mass consumerism. As Noonan comes to realize, these craftsmen, some of whom find themselves on the brink of retirement with no obvious successors, have increasing reason to believe that their way is the best way—best for their customers, best for the environment, and best for the quality of life of all involved. The Coat Route is a love song to things of lasting value.

Praise for The Coat Route
 
“A spirited tour of fashion history . . . The Coat Route compels us to remember that behind every garment is a deep history and a pair of human hands—whether those hands stitched the dress’s hem or pulled a lever that stringed together that $30 must-have jacket.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“Delightful . . . The Coat Route celebrates those who work with their hands, creating something beautiful and lasting.”The Seattle Times
 
“[Meg Lukens Noonan’s] exploration of the business of fashion is fascinating and thorough, and her examination of bespoke goods redefines the words luxury and obsession.”—The Daily Beast
 
“Traditions of bespoke tailoring (and other related crafts) are skirting the edge of extinction. Noonan’s delightful story makes us hope they endure.”Publishers Weekly

“A fabulous story, brilliantly told . . . I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.”—Bill Bryson
 
“As captivating as any mystery or thriller, The Coat Route demystifies the rarefied universe of bespoke tailoring and provides a lens into the culture that covets it. It educates and inspires. I couldn’t put it down!”—Tim Gunn


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

Meg Lukens Noonan spent ten years as a correspondent for Outside magazine and has written for The New York Times, National Geographic Adventure, Travel + Leisure, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Vogue, and many other publications. She lives in New Hampshire.
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Reviews

4.2
12 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Spiegel & Grau
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Published on
Jul 16, 2013
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780679605171
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Industries / Fashion & Textile Industry
Design / Fashion & Accessories
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Marc Ecko
Elizabeth L. Cline
Until recently, Elizabeth Cline was a typical American consumer. She’d grown accustomed to shopping at outlet malls, discount stores like T.J. Maxx, and cheap but trendy retailers like Forever 21, Target, and H&M. She was buying a new item of clothing almost every week (the national average is sixty-four per year) but all she had to show for it was a closet and countless storage bins packed full of low-quality fads she barely wore—including the same sailor-stripe tops and fleece hoodies as a million other shoppers. When she found herself lugging home seven pairs of identical canvas flats from Kmart (a steal at $7 per pair, marked down from $15!), she realized that something was deeply wrong.


Cheap fashion has fundamentally changed the way most Americans dress. Stores ranging from discounters like Target to traditional chains like JCPenney now offer the newest trends at unprecedentedly low prices. Retailers are pro­ducing clothes at enormous volumes in order to drive prices down and profits up, and they’ve turned clothing into a disposable good. After all, we have little reason to keep wearing and repairing the clothes we already own when styles change so fast and it’s cheaper to just buy more.


But what are we doing with all these cheap clothes? And more important, what are they doing to us, our society, our environment, and our economic well-being?


In Overdressed, Cline sets out to uncover the true nature of the cheap fashion juggernaut, tracing the rise of budget clothing chains, the death of middle-market and independent retail­ers, and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals. She travels to cheap-chic factories in China, follows the fashion industry as it chases even lower costs into Bangladesh, and looks at the impact (both here and abroad) of America’s drastic increase in imports. She even explores how cheap fashion harms the charity thrift shops and textile recyclers where our masses of cloth­ing castoffs end up.


Sewing, once a life skill for American women and a pathway from poverty to the middle class for workers, is now a dead-end sweatshop job. The pressures of cheap have forced retailers to drastically reduce detail and craftsmanship, making the clothes we wear more and more uniform, basic, and low quality. Creative inde­pendent designers struggle to produce good and sustainable clothes at affordable prices.


Cline shows how consumers can break the buy-and-toss cycle by supporting innovative and stylish sustainable designers and retailers, refash­ioning clothes throughout their lifetimes, and mending and even making clothes themselves.


Overdressed will inspire you to vote with your dollars and find a path back to being well dressed and feeling good about what you wear.

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