Gruppo GFT's 3-Volume Apparel Arts Set.
Aficionados of the men's trade magazine Apparel Arts will already know just how highly sought after the original issues are. Prices range in value anywhere from $150 to $500 per issue, depending on condition and vintage. Published beginning in 1931, Apparel Arts eventually morphed into GQ by the late 1950's - with the over-sized, hardcover issues from the 1930s apparently commanding the highest prices.
In 1991, the Italian clothing conglomerate Gruppo GFT published a 3-volume set which reproduced some of the original writing and artwork featured in Apparel Arts. The first book in the set also features original essays on the golden age of men's style from writers such as G. Bruce Boyer, among others. Unfortunately, these contributions are in Italian - and, I'm sorry to admit, my knowledge of that language is essentially zero.
Some of the exquisite reprinted artwork from Lawrence Fellows.
My understanding, after speaking with Mr. Boyer and others on this subject, is that the 3-volume set was never actually produced for sale. A small set of anywhere from 500 to 1000 copies were printed and distributed to friends, customers, clients, etc. Which perhaps explains why this set might be even harder to find than original issues of Apparel Arts.
I recently made the acquaintance of a rare books collector who owns a complete set of Apparel Arts issues, among many other scarce books and magazines including this 3-volume set. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for my wallet, this collector also has duplicates of some of these rare pieces, and he has been quite generous and gracious in his willingness to part with some of these treasures. And so it came to be that, after searching high and low for some time, I am now the proud owner of what appears to be a pristine 3-volume set.
The first volume is essentially a compilation of some of Apparel Arts' greatest hits, so to speak. The second volume focuses on an article whose subject is the men's store of the future, as imagined from the vantage point of the 1930s. That being said, the artistic renditions bear a striking resemblance to the Barneys Flagship store on Fifth Avenue. Finally, the third volume is a reproduction of the 1934 Summer issue.
The reprinted Apparel Arts pages are quite well done, to be sure - the colors, in particular, are quite vibrant. There are also pull-out full spread pages that are beautiful to behold. About the only negative that I can think of is that the original issues included actual fabric swatches with certain advertisements. And it really is quite amazing to feel the texture of the suit or overcoat fabric, even after 80 years or so. But I don't mean to nitpick - this 3-volume set is an amazing artistic accomplishment unto itself.
One of the oversized pull-out pages featuring more sartorially inclined artwork.