Fashion Book Club: The Coat Route

While listening to journalist Meg Lukens Noonan talk about her new book, "The Coat Route," on the radio the other day, I couldn’t help but think about the last book I shared with Penny Rose readers. That book, "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion," explores the serious hidden costs (including human rights infringements and environmental damage) associated with the "fast fashion" industry that’s prevalent today. Fast fashion is the process in which clothes are mass produced, sometimes in horrid conditions or in very unsustainable manners, and sold at very low (although I’d argue we’ve grown accustomed to them) prices at large chain stores.

Noonan’s book, the subtitle of which is "Craft, Luxury & Obsessions on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat," on the other hand, is about an item of clothing made in quite the opposite way: a luxurious, one-of-a-kind coat made by a fourth-generation tailor in Australia named John Cutler. Now, I’m not saying that $50,000 is a reasonable price for a coat (are you kidding me?), but this tale of craftsmanship and true artisan creation—a coat made from the best of the world’s materials, all from hand, tailored to perfection—provides an interesting opportunity to ponder just how far we’ve come from the days when clothes were fitted and well-made with care by a skillful tradesperson. What I took away from the comparison of the two books was that it’s important to find that sweet spot between the dangerous trend of cheaply made, outsourced, non-unique clothes we buy like cups of coffee and discard just as easily and the extravagant, custom, insanely priced items made by a dying breed of tailors.  Buying clothes made locally in your area is a great way to find this balance.