Walk the streets of any city this summer and you are bound to notice the latest trend in toppers, the iconic Panama hat. We traveled to Ecuador to uncover the classic Panama style hat handmade by artisans, using only locally sourced materials. Valdez Hats founded in 2011 by Gabriela Goldbaum aims to preserve the culture of the original Panama style hat while providing work for the citizens of Ecuador. Valdez uses only indigenous materials such as toquilla straw, tagua beads and felt form the Andes to recreate their classic styles. So go head grab some shade from a Valdez panama hat, it?s your chance to be a part of an age-old tradition and not just a passing fancy.
Virginie Courtin-Clarins wearing Valdez
1. What made you decide to focus on Panama hats?
I really admire the history and tradition of the Panama hat so I decided to investigate the different communities of artisans throughout Ecuador that make these hats. After meeting them and seeing the abilities of all these talented artisans, I felt the need to work with them creatively. The Panama hat has been an Ecuadorian tradition for centuries; it is something to really feel proud of. I find it important to provide under-developed communities the opportunity (especially when they have the potential) to show their crafts to the world and keep the tradition of weaving alive for future generations.
2. Valdez hats are handmade in Ecuador by artisans- how did you go about finding these amazing craftsmen?
I'm constantly traveling around Ecuador looking for talented artisans. I go to small towns and ask for the best craftspeople, visit communities of artisans and see what their capabilities are. It is a never-ending journey really, each time I'm more impressed by the skills and stories that the artisans have, their crafts are passed on from generation to generation so there are always inspirational stories that come with their products and techniques.
3. What is your overall inspiration?
I find my inspiration in nature and energy. The best shapes and color combinations come from nature and the concepts and ideas come from the energy of places and people around me. I get so many ideas from a simple conversation with a friend.
4. What is on the ?Valdez? mood board?
Butterflies, birds and orchids from Ecuador, geometrical shapes, traditional Inca patterns, Pre-Columbian art, laser light shows?
Photographer Zach Sebastian sporting a Panama hat with the Otavalo band.
5. Which is your favorite Valdez piece?
The Classic Panama with the Otavalo Band was my inspiration to start Valdez and will always be a staple in every collection. It combines crafts from the artisans on the coast as well as from the Andes Mountains. The hat has a unique shape that somehow looks good on anyone, man or woman, young or old. It?s timeless.
6. What is next for Valdez?
We are adding beach bags, purses, scarves and jewelry to the S/S 13 Collection.
Shop L-atitude's favorite Panama hats by Valdez: