The Montecristi hats are considered the finest toquilla straw hats in the world. It is an artifact that carries history, culture and the best finishes made 100% by Ecuadorian hands. These iconic hats come from many towns throughout Ecuador, the most iconic ones being in the coastal zone of Montecristi, Ecuador next to the Pacific Ocean in the province of Manabí. We tend to receive these hats and give them the final touches for them to be perfect and have the K. Dorfzaun signature of approval and quality control. The art of creating one of these hats cannot be learned from one day to another as it is a tradition passed from generation to generation. Most of the habitants in the zone of Montecristi dedicate their lives to the artisanal work with the toquilla straw.
The artisans work before the sun comes out from the horizon of the ocean to the chilling nights ahead of a new day of weaving. At 7:00 am they tend to go for hikes searching for the best selection of toquilla straw to obtain their raw material. What makes the toquilla straw of Ecuador so special are the microclimates as these make the toquilla straw softer and lets the artisan achieve a silk-like texture through weaving. After those hikes that take around 2-3 hours, the artisans are back to their homes where they let the toquilla straw drain its water for three days. After the straw has been drained, they proceed to chop the wisps of straw in thin lines. This process takes 3-4 hours just to chop 3 wisps of straw. When the straw is dry it is placed in a pot with hot water to boil for 3 minutes. After the straw is boiled, it is tied up and hung up through wire to dry in the sun.
The Montecristi toquilla straw hats must be woven in a special position where artisans weave normally at night or throughout the day if the climate is favorable. If they try to weave throughout the day in the dry and extremely hot climate from the coastal zone, the toquilla straw has a chance of potentially cracking and ruining the hat. These hats can take 1 month to a year to make a singular unit and most of the habitants of Montecristi produce 2-3 hats a year. These hats are valued by their weaving grade and the finer the hat is, the more expensive it can get as it takes more time for the artisan to produce it. The grade is measured by how many knots there are in the hats. More knots take more time, and the grade of the hat will be higher, which means the hat will be finer. Most of the habitants from the zone of Montecristi learned this art from a family member as it is a family learned tradition.
Artisans in various towns throughout Ecuador dedicate their life weaving the iconic “Panama Hats “. In 2020 the worldwide Pandemic of Covid-19 hit Ecuador and the artisanal community was greatly affected. Exports were shut down and the fashion industry hit rock bottom as hats are not a good of first necessity. In K. Dorfzaun we work as closely as we can with the artisan community of Azuay, Ecuador and we implemented workshops with them so that we could overcome the problems the Pandemic brought. We work closely with the sanitary regulations for our mutual safety. Lately the fashion industry started to get traction again and we have been able to successfully fit demand thanks to these amazing workers and artisans who with their skills and dedication have worked against all odds.
Even though the famous Montecristi hats are known as “Panama Hats” Artisans and companies are working so that the international market of hats know that these authentic hats come from Ecuador. In 2012 the UNESCO declared the traditional weaving of the Ecuadorian toquilla straw hat an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Now the authentic toquilla straw hats carry an emblematic stamp in the inside of the crown that legitimatizes the origin of the hat. These hats are one of the most important artifacts of the Ecuadorian culture and history and its people work on the daily to maintain this tradition alive. There is another type of palm that is also part of the Ecuadorian tradition, and it is the Mocora Palm. This palm is a strong economic pillar for the artisans of Ecuador that dedicate their lives to this tradition as it can be sold for a higher price than coffee or corn. The Mocora palm can be used to weave very special hats and artifacts as well.
At K. Dorfzaun we work closely with the artisans and we constantly check for quality to ensure the finest hats to our clients around the world. We want people to have the best and only the best as we work to ensure quality, reliability, and a lifelong product. We open our doors to the creative minds of our clients as we work to fulfill their hat specifications such as the hat’s form, color, type of weave, hat bands etc.… It is our duty and our mission to keep up with fashion and at the same time respect the art of our artisans. A fundamental pillar of our company is to respect the lifelong traditions of the artisans and to invest in this millenary tradition while committing on our social and environmental pledges.