Suiting up for the future of flight

Avatar for Lisa GordonLisa Gordon | April 11, 2022

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 29 seconds.

Since it was founded in 2012 by Quebec real estate mogul and helicopter pilot Stephan Huot, the pilot apparel company that bears his name has largely flown under the radar. But over the last two years, that’s been changing — and fast. 

Flight suits designed by Quebec City’s STEPHAN/H have been featured in international movies, including “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” Netflix’s “Away,” and Chinese film, “The Rescue.” They’re also on the airshow circuit, modelled by the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic team.

“We’ve been equipping more and more pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers and a lot of different ‘action’ professionals who need not only functional suits, but a second skin that is also comfy and good-looking,” said Jean-Philippe Villemaire, communications director at STEPHAN/H.

Originally designed for helicopter pilots, STEPHAN/H flight suits are now conquering a new frontier: space.

“We’ve been chosen by NASA and most of the private space programs, such as Blue Origin. It seems our design is a cross between a suit that is specifically designed for pilots but also fits well in the space environment,” Villemaire explained. “It’s an area where we had a big breakthrough. NASA has bought hundreds of our blue Rotor flight suits for their development program. And Alyssa Carson, who hopes to go to Mars one day, has done several Instagram stories with our suit — she wears it all the time.”

STEPHAN/H is a division of Groupe Huot, which includes a number of aviation-related companies: Capitale Hélicoptère flight school; GoHelico aerial work, charter and tour company; and Quebec airborne medical services provider Airmedic. 

“Stephan Huot had all these pilots and staff that needed to be suited and he looked at the different options,” Villemaire said. “He didn’t find anything that was up to his own standards, so he started STEPHAN/H to produce comfortable, high-performing flight suits for aviation professionals. It’s a revolution in protective industry apparel.”

Currently, STEPHAN/H offers three professional flight suits: Classic, Rotor, and Signature. 

As the entry-point product, the one-piece Classic suit (CDN$395 or US$315) comes in two colors and features a center zipper with front and side pockets.

The best seller is the Rotor suit (from CDN$895 or US$715), which comes in one or two pieces with six color options. It is made from stretchy, water-repellent fabric that moves right along with busy pilots. Its unique features include four-way stretch inserts, abrasion resistant fabric in high-wear areas, and mesh-lined material that creates an air layer between the shell and skin for better ventilation. 

“The Signature [from CDN$1,295 or US$1,030] is our top-of-the-line suit,” Villemaire continued. “It is fire-resistant and made from 4.5 or six-ounce Nomex, depending on the durability needs of the client.”

In addition, STEPHAN/H has developed a fourth suit in conjunction with Air Ambulance Kent Surrey Sussex in the U.K., called the Ultimate. This suit has even more features and is available for corporate purchase. It is made with a specialty fabric that protects against bodily fluids and the hazards of an electric arc.

“We use only top-quality materials and hand-crafted design,” Villemaire said. “We work closely with our own staff and ambassadors to develop these suits. We work hard to ensure we use double stitching or special fabricating techniques where necessary. Our suits are meticulously crafted by a team of dedicated seamstresses here in Quebec City, so they are much more durable and will last longer. Over 200 components go into our flight suits. It’s an investment in comfort, durability, and functionality.”

The company sells its products worldwide from its Quebec City headquarters. Villemaire said the STEPHAN/H production team constantly challenges itself to take the company’s suits to the next level. For example, women’s flight suits are specially designed to fit the female body, thereby improving functionality, ergonomic performance, and appearance. As well, staff look for even better-performing materials and take care to promptly implement client feedback.

“For us, it’s not only the material but also the small things,” he explained. “No matter the size of the client organization, we can tailor suits for each of their staff. When you see someone wearing a STEPHAN/H suit tailor-made for them, it makes a huge difference and makes them look unique.”

He said Heli-Expo attendees were able to see and feel STEPHAN/H’s revolutionary flight suits at the company’s tradeshow booth in March. Many sizes and styles were made available to attendees to try because “once you put it on, your perspective changes.”

Looking down the road, STEPHAN/H will focus on sharing its passion for high-performing aviation wear. Villemaire said that in addition to space, the company is providing suits to other industries that need highly technical clothing for demanding environments, such as ground EMS and search-and-rescue. 

“We are also working on a street wear collection that reflects the quality and look of our products, for anyone who wants to look ‘professional grade,’” he said. “The future is now for a new generation of flight suit. We bring to market a product line that’s in a class by itself. Once you try it, you won’t want to go back. You’ll know you have something that is highly functional that you are proud to wear without compromising comfort and style.”   

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