Chapal jacket FrancoisPourcher

 
Chapal
are a old, high-quality French producer of leather jackets and coats. They make a few things that won’t be to readers’ tastes (T-shirts, painted chairs) but it’s worth turning a blind eye to that and focusing on the  jackets. 

I met the team behind Chapal at Pitti last year and visited their showroom in Paris a few months ago. (There is no shop. There are a few stockists, but I recommend visiting the showroom if you can.) 

More usefully, I have also watched a Chapal jacket age slowly and gracefully over the past year – on Gaziano & Girling patineur Thomas Brunschwig. Thomas bought a made-to-measure ‘USAAF’ jacket last year and wore it through the winter, pretty much every day. The sheep leather has acquired a nice patina, darkening around pockets and lightening on exposed edges. 
  

sheep jacket Chapal

  
When you put on the jacket, or indeed any other model in the Chapal range, the quality is immediately apparent. The leather is veg-tanned and beautifully soft (Chapal has its own tannery – pretty rare these days), the hardware is solid, and the lining is a really thick cotton drill. 

I’ve shown a few pictures here of Thomas’s jacket, as well as a shot of Francois Pourcher at Corthay wearing the same model (top). 
 

Chapal jacket Thomas Chapal leather jacketChapal label

  
Chapal made for the French airforce, and was behind many innovations in flight jackets. Most famously it invented the coating applied to shearling to make it water-resistant (in 1920), which was later supplied to the US airforce and used on their B3 bomber jackets. (It had a factory in Brooklyn from 1880 to 1970.)

The model worn by Thomas and Francois is directly taken from a US design, hence USAAF, and has a detachable rabbit-fur collar. Alongside the shearling B3 and English version (RAF), it also offers original designs for the A1 and A2 jackets. 

Below is the earliest design for a flying jacket – supplied to the French airforce during WWI. It is cut much longer in the body that later designs, but is cinched effectively at the waist to keep it warm and tight fitting during flight. 
  

Chapal WWI flight jacket

Chapal WWI flight jacket2

  
Chapal has both its own tannery and its own fur factory. The fur is supplied to other companies as well, but the tannery is just for Chapal’s production. Even more unusual is that Chapal makes absolutely everything itself, from driving shoes to fibreglass helmets. 

The company was founded in 1832 and has remained in the family ever since. It is now on its seventh generation, with around 35 people working there including the tannery. Jean-Francois Bardinon took over as creative director in 1982 and has pushed the company into more lines and more modern designs (though as I said, I prefer the classics).

 

There are a few stockists around the world, but most customers have jackets made to order. The advantage of this is that small changes to the fit (eg longer arms) can be done with only a small surcharge. A full made-to-measure service is also available, but costs 20%-40% more. The USAAF jacket starts at €2600 and shearling pieces such as the RAF are €3100.  
  

Chapal A2 jacket Chapal bomber jacket

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
34 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lee

Insightful as always Simon. I’ve often wondered who and where the best bespoke leather jackets makers are. I’m a long way from being able to afford one but I’ll make a mental note of Chapal.

Néstor

Simon,

Two questions.

1. For a suede version of the A1, what brand/manufacturer would be your first choice? I am tempted by the Al Bazar version, I guess the manufacturer should be Valstar or am I wrong?

2. Do you know where the largest selection of Mandelli could be found either in London or in Milan?

Best,

laurence Luçon

Finest words for this Brand that deserves to be discovered for those who still have not heard about !
Thank you Simon for those comments on the essence of our products !

Sam

Hi Simon,
Chapal looks to be lovely quality but rather boxy/old school in fit. Where in London would be the best place to go for those Valstar slim fits mentioned earlier in the comments or something in similarly high quality and wearable? Am a young chap after a slim fit leather jacket that will last forever rather than the usual designer/high street disposable offerings.
Cheers,
Sam

luca simoni

Go to http://www.valstar.it, then inside cick “valstarino e-shop”.
You’ll find exactky what you are talking about

Anonymous

Hi Simon, is the leather calf leather or a more robust type? Also for those looking for slim fit the pending return ( – according to recent Parisian & Milanese catwalks) of pleats and looser cuts will suit the fuller, shorter style of these jackets.

Néstor

Thanks Simon!

John

Hi Simon,
These leather jackets are really wonderful, especially good for travel or when has to queue, say, in front of the Grand Palais or the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, whereas it’s cold. At best, worn under such circumstances with a crew or rollneck. Then, one can really appreciate their usefulness!
John

Paul Lux

Simon,
Very nice of you to present beautiful French craftsmanship. Chapal is indeed wonderful. I also discovered it thanks to Thomas. I have to say I am impressed. It’s even better than Seraphin which I already loved very much.

Anders

Hello.
Have you tried any of the jackets from aeroleatherclothing?
http://www.aeroleatherclothing.com/products.php?cat=classicleather

Kind regards,
Anders.

Jon

Simon, thanks for the post. I have admired Chapal’s jackets for while. They have some very nice designs.
I have a couple of leather jackets. A lovely cashmere lined, elk hide jacket by Loro Piana and a 1930’s half-belt by Aero. The Loro Piana jacket is a great, modern design and beautifully made. The Aero is recreation of a piece of 1930s workwear which, whilst well made, is not finished as well as the Loro Piana. With that said Aero offer a made to order service with a large choice of leathers and an even wider choice of linings. Their Horween chromexel horsehide leather, which my jacket is made of, has far more colour and character than the elk hide of my Loro Piana jacket. For me the Loro Piana jacket is a fashion item but the Aero jacket is a companion for life, more akin to a Barbour jacket. The result is that I have far more affinity for the Aero than the Loro Piana.

David Knight

Nice jacket but not anything like a USAF A2, from the pleats on the back (and the fur collar) it is actually based on the USN G1.

Aero do nice jackets and have the heritage but I find Aviation Leathercraft, who currently supply the RAF, http://www.flying-jacket.com are the chaps, I have an A2, an RAF Tornado and an Irvin of theirs and think they will last me out!

Ken Yearwood

Hi Simon, I have often admired Thomas’ jacket but never wanted to ask him where he acquired it (some how it seems rude to ask) so this artical put me on the right track, for which I thank you. I ordered mine in July however due to the French summer holidays it arrived today, I was surprised to find that the label inside seems to suggest these jackets are made not in France but rather in the US? It is beautifully made so I am not too concerned but I had thought Chapel manufactured just outside Paris not NY. Out of curiosity I will pop a message to Laurence and see what she has to say, in any event I am delighted with the jacket.

BTW My wife may want to have a word with you, reading your blog is costing us a small fortune…

All the best, Ken

laurence Luçon

Dear Ken,
nice to hear you are delighted with your CHAPAL jacket recently received form our manufacture.
Just a quick sign to share with all readers : CHAPAL collection is now entirely created and produced in France, near Limoges where the ancient factory was born in 1832.
All the pieces you can order and find in our website come from our traditional production unit which can offer bepoke itmes too.
Wishing you all the best moments with your second skin…we thank you for chosing our brand.
sincerely,

laurence

Ken Yearwood

Thank you for your reply Laurence, where ever it was made my Chapal USAF jacket is lovely and I am sure it will provide many years of service. Do pass on my gratitude to your atelier team. Warm regards, Ken

Sam Green

Hi, i have a Chapal USAAF jacket that is a simple bomber style. It is green with the classic brown cuffs and trim. Is it something that holds value if only worn a few times? And where would be best to put this up for sale?
Thanks, Sam

John

Hi simon,
I am interested in purchasing a chapel leather jacket. How should I go about it? -J

Byun

What do you think about chapal’s ‘veste 1965’?
It isn’t chapal’s original style such as bomber jacket. But it looks quite nice to my mind.
Is it worth buying?
I am looking for a bit formal shearling coat. Veste 1965 could be a good answer. But it is quite expensive compared to even Chapal’s original jackets. So I feel difficult to make a decision.

Chris k

Simon, I know this has been asked a million times now (as I’ve seen numerous comments scattered around) but could we please have a review of some sort of your Chapal USAAF soonish? Even something brief would be appreciated. Like many I’m sure, I would like to purchase one in the not too distant future.

Many Thanks

Anonymous

Thank you sir

Nen

Hello Simon ,
Thanks for your post.
What can you say about Chapal fit?
I am interested in a G1 jacket but I am not decided about size M or L.
I usually wear 48-50 italian size, 5.10″ and 80kg, what do you think?