How a Genuine Panama Hat is made?
Our hats are fully handwoven by skilled craftsmen from Ecuador who perform this activity following traditional methods from their ancestors usually in the warm atmosphere of their home. Then all hats are finished to the highest standards in UK.
It is important for clients to understand why our products are so unique, UNESCO recognised and hard to find the original ones in a global market.
HOW TO RECOGNISE A GENUINE PANAMA HAT
First of all, to be considered an authentic quality 'Panama Hat' must be made in Ecuador!
If you are looking to buy the original Panama Hat, the material that is used to create them is the one and only “Toquilla straw”, that exclusively grows on the coasts of Ecuador. This straw is made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica Palmata plant and it is cut when the moon enters its final quarter for maximum flexibility.
Other factors to recognise the quality to be considered while choosing the right straw hat, one of the most important is how thin the woven of the hat is, finer means better quality. All our hats have been categorised from "Fino" (WPI 8-10) until "Ultra fino" (WPI 32-42). This is identified by the WPI (Waves Per Inch: the higher the better), a finer hat is more expensive because its processing is more laborious and entails a much longer time.
"A Genuine Panama Hat is a sort of precious fabric entirely executed by hand" -- March. Maria Jose Incisa di Camerana
Be aware that some Panama Hat dealers sell hats with the name "Genuine Panama Hat" but the true is that most of those hats are made in Colombia or China where the material used to make hats are paper or other kinds of poor quality straws like the Iraca, tetera and enea. These materials ovbiously are far away from the "Toquilla" quality and durability. The distinct traditional process that is employed in Ecuador to manufacture the hats since always, is recognised as the best method, where no chemicals are allowed during the whole manufacture. Another factor that it is key to recognise one Genuine Panama Hat made in Ecuador are the market prices. In fact, some buyers think they are making the bargain or the deal of their lives but the true is they are actually buying fake hats. Panama hats are light-colored, lightweight, and breathable, and often worn as accessories to summer-weight suits, such as those made of linen or silk. The tightness, the finesse of the weave, and the time spent in weaving a complete hat out of the toquilla straw characterise its quality.
The first part to be woven is the pattern.
Few straw fibres are employed in its initial creation, then other fibres are progressively added until a width is attained that varies between 5 and 10 centimetres. To weave the hat body, a mould (a block of wood) is used to gradually produce the shape to where the brim begins, which is the final element of a hat of seven to 15 centimetres.
After that comes the “remate” (tying off), which consists of doing a special interweaving to finish the weaving process.
The next stage in the creation of a hat.
This is performed by women and is known as the “azocada” (tightening), which consists of tightening the tied-off fibres to keep the weave from coming undone, followed by clipping the excess fibres. Then the hat is washed, “whitened” or dyed, and dried in the sun. When it has lost its shape and looks like a bell, with precision and strength the craftsman’s hands return it to its original shape; this stage is the “compostura” (reshaping).
Finally, the hats are ready to be blocked and finished at thehighest standards in our warehose in United Kingdom.
Fineness of weave, why finer means more expensive?
The treatment used to process the straw is another key do determine the quality, and here the "Montecristi hats" made by the very skilled artisans in Pile - Ecuador stand out, because during its process, considered unique in the world, the use of chemicals is not allowed and it has been recognised by the UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012.
Another basic characteristic to recognises an original “Panama Hat” and determinate the best quality, it is if the hat can be folded (rolled). In addition, you have to consider the shape of the hat that should be uniform, and lastly but very important fact is that all the seams of the hat have to be overcast minutely by hand with the same straw and never sewed by machine!
To judge the Genuine Panama Hat quality, it is important to examine the weave. The finer the weave, the finer the hat.
When Maria Jose selects the hats one by one in Ecuador, she uses a magnifying glass especially for Montecristi hats from the 'Extra Fine' category, because these hats are very thinner or finer to just count the straw stitches per inch with the naked eye. A thinner hat means more hard work and significantly more time and effort is required to weave compared to a coarse hat.
Practically, you have to keep in mind that the skilled artisan is making a fabric entirely by hand and not for nothing our hats are considered the masterpieces of the hats. Every time the width of the straw is reduced by half, the amount of work is multiplied by four. A hat twice as fine takes four times as long to weave. This is why a hat that looks only slightly finer than another may cost more. That little bit more fineness, multiplied by the thousands and thousands of weave “intersections” in a good hat, can add up to several additional weeks of weaving time.