traditional hat making

Hat Tip: Age-Old French Tradition

Bènèdicte Desrus

Septfonds, France. December 2009

The Coustillères family has been making its straw hats in Septfonds, in southern France, for nearly 100 years. It is one of the few manufacturers of hats that dye its own straw by hand, and now, under the direction of Jean-Claude Coustillères, is one of the last hat makers of the region.

Though it also makes hats and caps from felt and cloth, it is known for its labor-intensive straw hat making process. Nearly all of the equipment it uses is more than 100 years old, using the original presses and tools, including aluminum molds and sewing machines.

The hat blocking and shaping, straw braid construction, and dyeing are all done by hand. The company produces two collections a year distributed by a network of salespeople and through a catalog to clients around the world.