ARTISAN / LOCATION
Our hats are crafted in a tiny indigenous village 60 miles north of the capital city of Quito. Carlos and his mother Zoila are the fourth and fifth generation hat makers in their family. Their story begins in the late 1800's, their ancestors started crafting hats and traveling to the surrounding villages to trade & barter their hats for food and supplies. Over the last 100 + years, they have successfully turned a trade and barter system to a traditional wholesale model with over 10 employees.
Zoila and Carlos' workshop has been a steady source of income for 12 residents of the village where the hats are made. In addition to earning a living wage, Zoila and Carlos provide healthcare for their employees as well as flexible schedules to accommodate educational demands. Many others, benefit from being able to afford to send their kids to school.
Zoila and Carlos craft each hat out of wool felt, a biodegradable material that is known for it's durability. Wool is collected from shepherds about 150 miles south from where the hats are made. The wool is processed into felt in a local mill. The methods used to process the wool into felt requires repeated steaming and matting of the fibers which result in a durable material that cannot be pulled apart. This method has been successfully used for over 100 years. The wool felt is naturally dyed before it is handed over to Zoila and Carlos.
The production process requires several steps and a lot of hours to be completed. It all starts with a piece of wool felt that comes in the shape of a cone. The material is first coated in unflavored gelatin and compacted with the use of an industrial roller. In the next phase, an artisan (Elvis) will spend several hours steaming and shaping the material over a wooden mold until the rough shape of a hat is visible. The material is then placed on a mold where the the crown will get it's final shape. Finishing touches are given to the hat before it is deemed complete.