Our skills – tradition mixed with a healthy curiosity
Felt hats gain their shape from working felt hoods with moisture, heat and pressure. In this way the material becomes soft and malleable and can either be drawn over forms or ‘ironed on the hand’. ‘Ironing on the hand’ is a highly skilled art. It requires both the know-how of a craftsperson as well as a perfect eye and considerable sensitivity for the material. Felt has to be worked quickly so that it remains equally strong all over and to create an even surface without creases. Using this technique the felt is shaped, without a form, between the iron and the hand, smoothened and modelled until the required result is reached.
This form of manufacturing is especially gentle on the material. The finished hat fits perfectly and, thanks to the distinct shape created by hand, is truly unique in appearance.
Sewing straw hats and hats made of narrow braid is a highly specialised skill that, today, is only mastered by very few studios. We master this skill – and have done so for more than twenty years.
It is not without pride that we can even say that we are world leaders in this production method. Our experience using this technique over many years not only means that we have reached a high level of perfection but we have also developed several new techniques ourselves as well. As a result, we can create hats that are truly unique in shape. And certain extremely delicate braids, such as the elegant, 4mm-wide Swiss crin, can only be worked by us in our studio.
Sewing straw hats requires an extremely good eye, sensitivity, experience and practice. The narrower and more delicate the braid, to more difficult it is to work.
But that is more than worth the effort – as the narrower the braid, the more elegant the hat. The flexibility, fineness and evenness of the surface increases without the hat having to compromise anything with regard to its shape.
The sewing process
The straw hat sewing technique is so special that it is not just a question of creating a perfect seam between two sections but of forming the shape of a hat during the sewing process itself.
The hat is modelled in the sewing process while keeping and adding to the braid. This is done without any cuts or the use of templates. Like a potter working at the wheel who creates the form of a vase or bowl simply through his or her instinctive feeling and ability, we model our hats by carefully adding strands. The overall size, head width, height and width are exactly as we wish.
By the way: some 100–130 metres of braid are used in a larger straw hat!
Our innovative production techniques
One of our distinctive techniques is the concertina process: our ‘Pack Its’ are created using this method so that they can be folded flat.
We have also devloped methods to be able to introduce slants in a hat or to allow different surfaces on a hat to spiral away from each other.
These skills are reflected in our couture hats, in particular. The result: hats of sculptural beauty that are unique in every way.
We are always on the lookout for interesting materials and curious to explore unknown manufacturing techniqes. And it comes as no surprise that we like to take things that little bit further: how does a furrier sew pelts; how does a passementier knot tassels; how does a saddler work leather?
What began as curiosity has now become part of our design signature: the use of leather for hats and caps. To do this we peered over the shoulder of makers of exquiste bags and integrated the technique of leather-working in our craft. We work with leather from raw leather hides to finished leather brims that later gleam like mahogany.
From the very outset we lay great value on the correct choice of leather. To this aim we drive to Austria to our tannery that processes skins using the vegetable tanning method. And we take our time selecting each individual skin that has to meet our quality requirements 100%.
On returning to our studio, the manufacturing process begins. The working of each individual leather item is complex and time-consuming: from the pattern cut to checking the material, tracing, cutting, dying, smoothing, polishing and sewing. More than forty individual steps are necessary to produce the required result. And this precision can be seen and felt.
Discover our hats and fascinators made completely of leather, our hats with leather brims or our caps with leather visors and convince yourself of the quality of our products.
Many of our fascinators and hats stand out particularly thanks to their poetic feather trims: feathers that hover above the hat, gleam in all the colours of the rainbow and are reminiscent of flowers, rosettes and poofs.
Unlike most other hat makers, we manufacture our feather trimmings ourselves – from the natural feather to finished flowers or clouds of feathers. During the first step we sort the feathers and separate out the best ones – as only these are used. Then we cut, wash, bleach, dye and dry the feathers – depending on the result required.
Working with feathers offers very many possibilities and requires considerable dexterity. The quills can be split or sewn together, weather vanes ruffled, modelled or curled, before the finished feathers are mounted, sewn on, embroidered or wired.
Spherical, sculptural forms are the result, sometime recalling blossoms or flowers, other times like leaves caught in an autumn storm – or a light cloud floating by
Before Nicki Marquardt learnt to sew, she could knit and crochet. When she was at primary school she was already knitting scarves and hats under the guidance of her mother.
Today, we combine our knitting know-how that has been accumulated over more than forty years with our design principles to produce our headpieces. And we are very proud of the results: our hats are far removed from the mainstream and combine a perfect fit with an original and fashional appearance, superior materials and the best in manufacturing. Nicki Marquardt designs every model herself: she produces her own patterns for prototypes, determines the exact line, develops shapes and creates a harmony with the quality of wool required.
Experienced knitters help in the production. Each item is knitted by hand in Germany. As every knitter has her own strengths and knitting style, the models in our knitwear collection are worked out around the skills of each individual knitter. Each model, therefore, has its own special style of knitting that makes it unique and full of life.