Who made your Panama?

I have been very busy recently fulfilling custom Panama orders. This is no onerous task, as the Panama is one of my favourite hats.

If you have ever owned a genuine Panama you will understand what a beautiful piece of artisanal craft you have in your hands (or on your head for that matter).

Many of you will already know that the Panama is actually made in Ecuador, but you may not know that in 2012 UNESCO declared that the art of weaving a Panama hat in Ecuador would be added to their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is easy to understand why, when you see the whole process documented in the UNESCO video I have included at the end of this post.

PAJA TOQUILLA
Where it all begins (photo: UNESCO)

The weaving is only one of many steps in the production of a Panama and is a painstakingly laborious process which relies on skills passed down from one generation to the next. The very finest woven Panamas (traditionally woven in the city of Montecristi) take three to four months to make – so it is no surprise that these sell for over £1,000.

The Panamas I make for my clients arrive in my studio in the form of “hoods” – they have been woven and pressed into a sort of blunt ended cone shape, ready to be steamed and shaped by me on wooden hat blocks. They are a more everyday quality than the Montecristi, but they are still the result of painstaking skilled work by the family groups of weavers in Ecuador. So it is very important to me that I source them from a reputable UK dealer who pays them a fair price.

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Which is why I make a point of buying from the wonderful Jenny Froehlich, founder of Majesa. Jenny is from Ecuador herself, but has lived for many years in the UK. She has worked tirelessly to grow Majesa into the UK’s largest importer of Panamas, whilst also making sure that the weavers are properly rewarded for their skillful work. As a result of this Jenny was awarded the World Vision Award for Development Initiative in 1995. Jenny supplies many famous names with their Panamas, including Lock & Co of St James.

So when you order a Panama, you are commissioning something truly handmade from start to finish. And I see it as my privilege to transform this wonderful woven straw into a handblocked made-to-measure hat in the style and shape that best suits you.

Find out more about Jenny’s story here

Watch the UNESCO video here

 

 

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