on the trail of lawrence of arabia with sylvain tesson
Credits : Thomas Goisque
Founded as a tannery and a fur maker, Chapal spent the first hundred years of its existence mastering the art of making the most beautiful leathers. Only until then, Chapal started crafting leather garments, with the same dedication to excellence and handicraft. Many connoisseurs worldwide have praised Chapal savoir-faire, including French and US armies, fashion houses, and celebrities.
Years after years, Chapal has strived for perfection with the help of its two-hundred years old savoir-faire. Everyday in Crocq, dozens of magic hands — tanners, dyers, cutters, tailors — repeat these timeless gestures and pass them on to the new generation, revealing an exceptional know-how deeply rooted in the French Couture.
When working the living material that is leather, Chapal leaves the upper layer intact, preserving the full-grain finishing rather than hiding the flaws by sanding and covering them. This is why flaws may appear on hides, which paradoxically are the mark of a natural high-quality leather and confer a true personality to our products: this is what traditional craftsmanship is about.
To create the soul of an object, for example our 1914 jacket, the craftsman will use twelve skins from sheep, breed in the deep heart of France, southeast region Les Causses, where animals are raised free and walk the mountains to find their food. That is why their hides are naturally resistant. Tanning is made in large barrels where wool and leather can be separated. Skins are fleshed out and then soaked into acid baths called “pickle”. Out of the barrels they get dry for days or even weeks. Then comes tanning, which definitely transforms skin into leather. Once tanned, the hides are soaked in wood barrels where they will absorbe pigments of the desired color. This process can be done several times in order to obtain the perfect result. Then skins are naturally dried, hanging in open air spaces.
Several finishing techniques then come into play. Each technique brings a different texture: velvet, suede, waxy, etc. Finishing is always obtained with a soft and natural touch.
For a glossy leather, Chapal craftsmen use a heating press, a process that involves stretching the leather to remove creases and gives it a flat surface. Only then, coating is applied. Finally, hides are selected depending on their shades and thickness, ready for the cut.
In an era where first choice quality leathers are becoming scarce resources, preserving its in-house tanning savoir-faire is the only way for Chapal to make sure its jackets will always be of the finest quality.
From tanning the hides to the end finishing — also called le bichonnage — every step is made in Chapal manufacture in Crocq, France. Not only the raw material is from the finest quality, but the process of making a leather jacket is very unique. The master cutter is in charge of selecting the hides according to their quality, colour and size. Then, the bûche — prepared leathers with all metal parts, lining, and instructions — is given to one craftsman that will be responsible of the jacket until it is completely done. This is how every single jacket born in our workshop has what we call a “fragrance of authenticity”.
From tanning the hides to the end finishing — also called le bichonnage — every step is made in Chapal manufacture in Crocq, France. Not only the raw material is from the finest quality, but the process of making a leather jacket is very unique. The master cutter is in charge of selecting the hides according to their quality, colour and size. Then, the bûche — prepared leathers with all metal parts, lining, and instructions — is given to one craftsman that will be responsible of the jacket until it is completely done. This is how every single jacket, jean or luggage born in our workshop has what we call a “fragrance of authenticity”.
After tanning comes the hides selection before cutting : the hides are ranked depending on their shades and thickness. With his blade and a cardboard pattern the cutter starts his work: he needs around 32 different patterns for a single jacket. A mark or a darker shade can become the detail which makes the jacket a unique piece. Lining is made from a 220 grams cotton gabardine which has been purchased raw, then dyed and cut in-house. Then the seamstress comes in: she first controls if all pieces have been pinked, then applies a band on the edges to reinforce stitching, and assembles pockets and lining. On her machine she can start building up the garment. The specificity of this work is that they are all sewn inside-out, using a 50% cotton — for a natural aspect — and 50% polyester — for resistance — thread. 40 meters are needed for the making of one jacket.
A first control is done when attaching the horn buttons. Lining is brushed, ironed, extra threads are cut off. Final control is an extremely delicate task as it reveals the whole process of manufacturing. The worker in charge of choosing the hides gives a final glance on the product: his role is to give the final patina and polish by hand. He is the one who signs the certificate of authenticity as an approval.
The garment will then be shipped to its future owner somewhere around the world.