If you’ve been following APOE for awhile, you will know that I’ve always had a love for fashion that comes with a story. Whether it be Dione, Artisans Angkor or Sonam Ragbye to name a few, brands which utilize traditional craft or cultural heritage always tug at my heart strings. Therefore, I was pretty excited to be approached by Annie, the founder of MonPanama to learn all about her Panama Hats.
I could always tell that Panama hats were special given their high price point, but what I didn’t know was that genuine Panama hats are very limited and extremely meaningful. Just to give you a little initial insight, Panama Hats were deemed “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO in 2012. Is it just me or does “intangible” sound pretty darn special?
My sister spent many months in Panama a few years ago and I was constantly after her to bring me back a hat, but it turns out that the they aren’t actually from Panama at all. Instead, the hats are made from a very specific kind of a straw called “Cardulovica Palmata” which comes from a certain kind of palm that can only be found in Ecuador. I do not know how a hat made from an Ecuadorian raw material became a “Panama Hat”, but one of the stories used most often is that they were shipped through Panama to Europe in the late 1800’s, which caused some confusion as to the origin.
To be a genuine Panama Hat, Ecuadorian weavers must make the hat by hand using the correct type of palm. In contradiction to much of the fashion industry’s propaganda, the Panama hat is not a specific style, but can actually come in any style because the name actually refers to the weaving of that one kind of Ecuadorian straw. The art of weaving the hat is handed down through family and requires immense skill. The straw breaks in high temperatures, so they will work in the early morning and late night. The highest quality Panama Hats are called the “Superfino Montecristi” and can take anywhere from 3-6 months to weave and fetch up to $25,000 abroad. Yes, this number is huge, but it is frankly the price one must pay for something that took half a year to make. In the case of MonPanama, one of the ladies wearing their “Montecristi” is Thailand’s princess.
These hats which are perfect for the tropics given their light and breathable nature are becoming harder and harder to find. It is said that the last Montecristi will be woven in the next 15 years given that it is slowly being replaced by machine made imitations. There are only 15 weavers left with the knowledge to properly make a Montecristi and I don’t know about you, but this gives me goosebumps. Given that the Panama Hat became a symbol of sophistication and class when it made it’s first international debut at the World Fair in 1855, but might not be around for much longer is really, really sad.
Luckily, we are fortunate that there are still people helping to preserve the art of weaving by working to reignite the knowledge and appreciation for genuine Panama Hats. One of these people is Annie from MonPanama who has a showroom in Ekamai (Bangkok) complete with a wide selection of styles and price ranges which are waiting to be explored. Just to be clear, she also has pieces around THB 4000 which are a little bit easier on the budget. These hats are still genuine and handmade in Equador, but are merely a less refined weave while still looking very beautiful.
If you are interested in another style, you can see the Fedora version in my post here. I have really been enjoying working these two hats into my wardrobe – they really do make any outfit look sophisticated and are perfect for blocking out that Bangkok sun. To top it off, you really are wearing a story and I swear that you can feel the hands that made it.
Before I go, I just want to add in one more piece of knowledge for you (in case you didn’t already learn enough). The woven bag and bracelet in this post are also from MonPanama and are made by a Latin American indigenous group bordering Colombia and Venezuela. The weaving is done in traditional settlements which have been unscathed by modern culture and is called “Wayuu Mochila”, or just a Wayuu bag for short. Each design is completely unique and tells the a story of the weaver. In the past few years these bags have been adopted by the fashion inclined and google will bring up countless images of Wayuu in the hands of celebs. Whenever I wear my Wayuu bag I get comments from strangers, especially when worn alongside a Panama Hat.
To learn more about MonPanama or to try on some different styles, please feel free to contact Annie on line at “anneclaude” or to call her at 0861768179. MonPanama is also on Instagram.
Photos by Kristyna of FashionHouseCZ.
Hat, Bag & Bracelet: Mon Panama – Sunglasses: D&G – Sandals: TopShop
Kaftan: Zara (old) – Watch: TW Steel – Necklace: Sonam Ragbye &