Guy Chanel is a lone ranger on the high plains of fashion and home accessories. Working alone out of his atelier on the outskirts of Paris, he handcrafts a variety of one-of-a-kind designs using leather, crocodile, ostrich and other fine skins.
From saddles, handbags and wallets to belts, briefcases and even lamps, every Chanel creation is made-to-measure and constructed by hand using artisanal tools and techniques (ask him to show you the giant wooden tweezer he uses to hold small things in place when he sews).
By keeping production slow and steady, his solo operation turns out discreet, logo-less products of unparalleled quality and detail that are built to last several lifetimes.
Before launching out on his own in 1989, Chanel (whose name has no connection to the fashion brand) worked for fifteen years as a saddle maker for Hermès. At the time, everything in the company was made in the atelier above their flagship shop (now only saddles are made there, the rest is done in Pantin). So, when saddles orders were slow, Chanel would jump to bags and belts or any other small accessory that needed expert attention.
When he struck out on his own, this polyvalence set him apart from his peers and helped attract a diverse crowd of fine leather fans, from collectors, interior designers, and fashion stylists, to equestrians and even Michelin-starred chefs.
Unlike most artisans, Chanel caught the craftsman bug not through his family, but via a childhood passion for horses.
“I started riding when I was seven and rode competitively until I was twenty-five. Professionally, I wanted to do something linked to horses. I couldn’t be a jockey, because I was too tall. Veterinary, no, because I wasn’t good enough in school, so, I wound up making saddles.”
While saddles comprise only a quarter of his output today, they remain the heart and soul of his business and have earned him international recognition amongst the equestrian set. Riders from across the world, as well as aficionados that collect them as sculptures, swear by Chanel saddles for their show-stopping blend of comfort, beauty and performance.
“My clients have pretty classical tastes, so they’re more likely to play with color and materials than the design of the object.”
When you can build a saddle from scratch, a watchband may seem like child’s play, but Chanel pours equal attention into every one of his designs. Chanel admits that it takes the same amount of time for him to make a bag as a saddle (forty hours) while wallets belts and cardholders take a tenth of that.
In addition to made-to-measure designs, Chanel can also personalize, refurbish or repair. So if you’ve got a vintage accessory (Birkin or otherwise) that needs fixing up or some expert TLC, Chanel can give it a new lease on life.
Prices vary depending on complexity of design and materials: handbags (1500-50,000 €); saddles (2800-25,000 €); wallets, card holders, change purses, belts (200-3000€).
Delivery: Count four-eight weeks.
Appointments: Contact me to be put in touch with Guy Chanel.