There are few manufacturers in any apparel category with a history as long and experience as vast as shearling leader Rafel. In this age of downsizing, mergers, and a small business squeeze, there must be something special about a company that has remained a major player since the early 1900’s.
Founder Sam Rafel was a rabbit skin dealer who expanded to mouton shearling following World War II. His son Harold joined the business and it became one of the largest sheepskin dealers in the world. As the times changed so did Rafel, but the company always remained in the skin business, developing global relationships that remain intact to this day. In fact, Rafel’s access to the finest Spanish skins is virtually exclusive, and is one of the features that elevate this manufacturer to a league of its own.
Today, Rafel owners Lewis and Bruce continue their grandfather’s tradition, with the focus still on shearlings. Successfully sustaining and growing a business takes a special knowledge of the product and market. Bruce Rafel earned a Master’s Degree in Leather Chemistry from Britain’s University of Leeds, providing a background that has been instrumental in the company’s development. Lewis earned his BBA in marketing and handles the sales. The brothers insist on manufacturing all of their coats in their New Jersey factory, where they can keep a close eye on production and react quickly to wholesale and retail demands.
Their retail operation located at 118 West 27th Street, New York City serves shearling lovers year-round, and offers Rafel the opportunity to find out what customers are looking for in style, color, and fit. ‘We value the suggestions of our customers, and we can react very quickly to our clients needs. Having our own retail outlet helps us understand and respect the needs of our wholesale customers. Timely delivery and a trouble-free product are the key.,’ says Lewis. Their combined 61 years of experience is unmatched in the industry and Rafel is universally acknowledged to be the ‘shearling experts’
More about our founder: Sam Rafel
SAM RAFEL entered the New York City wholesale skin trade in the early 1920’s. After World War II his son Harold joined the business. They were among the largest producers of sheepskins in the world. Harold’s oldest son Bruce joined the firm full time in 1973 after receiving his Masters degree in Leather Science from the University of Leeds in England. Bruce’s younger brother Lewis joined the firm in 1978 after receiving his B.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Miami.
Today, the third generation runs the business. Bruce and Lewis are hands-on managers, overseeing all aspects of production, design, and sales in their Newark, New Jersey factory. Their intimate knowledge of raw materials and attention to fit and detail has enabled the Rafel label to prosper into its third generation.