Noah Coat as Inspiration

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This ‘Noah’ coat was inspired by the distressed linen coat Russell Crowe wore in Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 Film.

 

This was a very unusual, very long distance request, coming from Abu Dhabi in the UAE.  When I was first contacted-honestly – I wasn’t quite sure it was for real!  But, this client had his heart set on a distressed leather coat based on the coat that Russell Crowe, as Noah, wore for a good part of the film.

I had not seen the film yet so I promptly rented it, and the very apocalyptic vision of the costumes and the settings really struck me and I totally got the appeal.  After seeing it, the transliteration from homespun, linens, wools and hemp like cloths into leather  –  that all made much more sense.  The thing was now, how to achieve this wonderfully plush (almost velvety) and heavily worn, rugged feeling in leather?

Sourcing already “distressed” leathers is problematic.  Since most of my projects require less than a dozen skins – and I am limited by what my vendors sourced from their tanneries as well as what the trend reports (of 2 years ago) “predicted” might be in Fashion. Be it up and coming, trendy, cool or whatever.  And if “distressed” wasn’t on that list….

So, whenever someone asks for something “distressed”,  I need to explain to them that they need to be very open minded and not get stuck on whatever they’ve got in their mind as “distressed” leather – because what ever they are thinking – that exists only there, in their minds! 

It does not matter what they’ve seen in garments made by other companies – you can bet that leather was made especially and exclusively for that company.  To be able to do this requires huge minimums. It’s far, far out of reach for small scale bespoke projects.  (Unless you want to hit true couture price points in the 6 figures.  In that case, we’ll talk….)

Once in a while a tannery will run something distressed on their own, but it rarely ever matches up with a client’s ideal.  Washed leathers are much more available – sometimes these will work- but they don’t always have that “distressed” feel – they can be really subtle.  

Thankfully this Noah Coat project allowed for something much more organic, in fact- it demanded it.

Plus, the client wanted not just distressed, but he also wanted the leather to be as water repellant as possible – a little tricky since the second treatment had the potential to wipe out the work done to distress it in the first place!

I sourced a thick New Zealand lambskin in a dark brown.  New Zealand Lamb has a very distinctive grain which is related to the fat content of the lambs at harvest.  It was huge in late 1980’s early 1990’s and used everywhere in mens bomber jackets (back then I’d seen so much of it, I kind of hated it.) Now it’s resurfaced and a shrunken version is marketed as “bubble” leather.  But this treatment makes the skins far too textural and stiff for most garments, it’s used more for bags.   

These skins were just the opposite, top grade, tanned in France.  Thick and plush with an almost satin-like finish and very soft hand –  far beyond the quality you’d normally see in these skins.  Tiny too, which is also unusual.  NZ lamb are normally quite large hides. 

To distress them – I washed them, by hand – and just partially dried them – letting them finish by air. The stayed pretty soft and just needed some manipulation to even them out. Then, before cutting the skins I lightly sanded them to pick out the grain and added a water repellant finish to the back of the skins.  The rest of the distressing was done during and after the coat was being built.  Shading and additional water protection were added at the end.

The hand-carved horned buttons are a never to be repeated find (if there had been more I would have gotten them all – just to have on hand!)  The client chose a very heavy taupe silk for the lining which was an unusual choice. For outerwear, I feel darker colors are always best. 

I was told the Client Loved the coat – but he was not done tweeking it! 

About 2 months after he’d received the finished coat,  I was asked it I could add a fur lining to the hood.  So it came back to me – to my surprise the coat had been beautifully relined (in a nice chocolate brown) Not an easy job- at all – so Kudos to the tailor in Abu Dhabi who accomplished this!

Shortly after, I met with the client’s assistant who was in NYC for a week or so,  and together we went out to find fur for the hood – photographing the most likely candidates that would work with the Noah Coat.  The client ended up choosing the most surprising one,  the most anti-apocalyptic one!

He chose a sculpted Spanish rabbit with marbleized shades of brown and russet.  Under the vendors light it looked very orange – and photo adjustments did very little to correct this –  but in reality it blended very well so it was really, really  helpful to have another set of eyes.  She was able to relay this in person, to the client.  In the end, the juxtaposition of the mottled warm shades and the sculpting gave a real depth, warmth and richness to the relined Noah coat.

His assistant told me that he really adores the final coal and I hope he’s enjoying wearing it and staying warm and dry in it.  I am sure the coat is having great adventures!

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