Rafel History

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, Bruce Rafel continues his 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 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.

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’ says Bruce. Rafel is universally acknowledged to be the ‘shearling expert’.

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.

Today, the third generation runs the business. Bruce is a hands-on manager, overseeing all aspects of production, design, and sales in his Newark, New Jersey factory. His intimate knowledge of raw materials and attention to fit and detail has enabled the Rafel label to prosper into its third generation.