Located in the scenic Tuscan countryside lies the traditional straw hat-making area of Signa, where our two hat suppliers are based.
Signa has a rich cultural past. Surrounded by fertile farmland, where there are plentiful wheat harvests, straw hats have been worn since the Middle Ages when braids of straw from the waste of the wheat harvest were made into headgear by the farm labourers to protect against the rays of sunlight as they worked in the fields. By the 18th century, Signa had become a leading centre of industrialised hat production, with special varieties of wheat being grown specifically for hats. The grains had longer stems, which were thinner and more flexible, making them easier to work with. The Florentine Straw Hat became world-famous, renowned for its quality (it even has a play, Un chapeau de paille d'Italie, and an opera, Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, named after it).
Our suppliers are both family-run businesses which have over a century and a half of hat-making experience between them. The straw hats were originally handmade made by ladies who lived locally, either in Florence or in the surrounding Tuscan countryside. They wove the straw together to form braids which were combined to make wonderful hats.
Vintage Sewing Machine
As technology developed, the factories were able to make advances in their manufacturing, which enabled them to use felt and other premium materials, such as sisal and paper, as well as straw, allowing them to expand whilst maintaining their high level of craftsmanship. Shown above is a twisted chain stitch sewing machine, used for making straw hats from plaited straw. It dates from the 19th century but is still in use today. The combination of new and old allows these artisan factories to produce large quantities of hats, whilst ensuring that the high quality and attention to detail that are to be expected with the more traditional methods are maintained.
Hat mould
These are hat moulds or blocks, which are made from aluminium and create the shape of the hat. There are dozens of different ones in the factory to create different styles of hats.
Hat block
This hat press uses heat to fix the hat in its final shape, using either steam or heat applied directly to the metal pan.
Hat in mould close up 2
Once the hat has been moulded to the correct shape, they are removed from the blocks and left to dry on the on the hat trees shown above.
Hat bands and threads
The edges are then finished and hat trims are sewn on.
Hats on floor
The finished hats are then ready to be packed up and shipped to us or delivered to their showroom.
Straw hat & cotton hat 2
Specially sourced and developed by our buyer, Michelle, to complement our existing collection, our range of Italian-made hats are expertly crafted, ensuring you'll want to wear them again and again. Take a look here >
Can't make it to Italy? Visit the fascinating Hat Works - Museum of Hatting in Stockport. View here >
For more interesting updates and special offers, sign up to our email newsletters here >