‘The Coat Route’: A map of bespoke around the world

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Meg Lukins-Noonan speaks to BU College of Communication students on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of: Isabel Schooler

The Coat Route: A map of bespoke around the world

By: Brooke Jackson-Glidden

Travel writer Meg Lukens Noonan was waiting in a small boutique in Florence when ”a bear of a man” with bouncing, shoulder-length curls glided into the room and sighed, “Meg Lukeeeeens.” Illustrious silk designer Stefano Ricci, or “the Maestro,” as Lukens-Noonan referred to him [in the myriad emails she sent his assistant,] had agreed to meet Lukens-Noonan without fully understanding why they had decided to meet.

Regardless, he welcomed her into the world of the lavish with trips to Lake Como to see Ricci’s silk screening center and dinners with Russian diplomats. If Noonan were to write about luxury, the luxury of the best materials, meticulous hand-stitching, world travel and one $50,000 coat, she would have to learn what it meant first-hand.

But before all of the dinners, the trips into the shops of Parisian cloth merchants and the melancholy English  button-makers and Peruvian vicuna shearing, Noonan found a $50,000 navy overcoat online.

“I was thinking about this idea, that people in the most remote places imaginable could make things that are considered the ultimate luxury,” Noonan said. So with a simple google search, she found tailor John Cutler, his client Keith Lambert and the piece of lush outerwear.

With a few emails and the arduous process of writing a book proposal, the freelancer began her journey around the planet,  crafting an impeccably designed and constructed narrative for her first book in twenty years: The Coat Route, which hit shelves last July.

Noonan began in Vancouver, B.C., to meet Lambert and see the famous coat. Then, she followed the creation of the coat to Peru, where she saw the ceremonial and rare shearing of the vicuna, a camelid (similar to an alpaca) who is sheared only once every three years. From there, she went to London to see the famous bespoke tailors of Savile row, to Paris to observe the high-end fabric house, and the Midlands in England to meet the button-maker for the Cutler coat. After her visit with the Maestro, she ended her trip in Sydney, with the man who brought it all together.

“People say, ‘A $50,000 coat? That’s obscene!’” Lukens-Noonan said. “But it’s because people like Keith Lambert exist that people with these obscure trades can continue. I don’t begrudge these people… It’s almost as if you would buy a painting as they would buy a suit.”

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