Lush writing and eagle-eyed reportage uncloak the insular world of bespoke fashion.
More than distance separates the awe-inspiring highlands of South America, where curious, four-legged creatures known as vicuna placidly graze in between carefully choreographed roundups, and the sober English shopping district of Seville Row, where equally fascinating bipeds known as tailors turn the vicuna wool into unparalleled items of luxury, including a $50,000 overcoat. This is the rarified realm of "bespoke," or made-to-order, garments. Globe-trekking travel writer Noonan is well-equipped to bridge the chasm and bring back a narrative every bit as finely rendered as the title's subject. Outfitted with an infectious curiosity and enviable eye for detail, the seasoned correspondent executes a sartorial odyssey that spans a remarkable portion of the planet. The fantastic journey is both fast-paced and rich—from Florentine factories where marvelous mechanisms sprung from the mind of Michelangelo still whirr alongside modern-day computers, to obscure English villages infamous for their oppressive work histories and exquisitely made buttons. The author’s descriptive prose is consistently illuminating and occasionally poetic. "It is impossible to look at the factory grounds and not be struck by how succinctly it telegraphs a twenty-first-century tale: the soulless modernity, the beautiful ruin,” she writes. While delving deep into the unseen universe of complex dyes, magical silkworms and gold-laced textiles, the author also understands that it is the far-flung personalities dedicated to transforming these varied elements into a one-of-a-kind jacket that make this tale of topcoats and tailors so tantalizing.
An elegantly engaging book aimed at everyone from the off-the-rack crowd on up.