Hatmaker Week 34, August 2019: Traditional Craftmanship Is Dead...?

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I hope that the title of this blog sparks questions and anger. Because that’s exactly what I felt when I read a recent series of articles in the Swedish newspaper, Sydsvenskan. I don’t read the papers much, I tend to stay updated on news through other media. Occasionally, I pick up my parents newspaper when I visit them. I am not much for subscriptions anyway. Recently I have read articles concerning traditional crafts, handmade items such as barrel making, rope or even hats. I was wondering, how did they get there. Where did that attention come from, all of a sudden? Why has not any paper contacted Hufvud to get my point of view. There is a reason for everything. Perhaps my thoughts on this will be brought up on another occasion.

The series of articles were about how hard it is for traditional craft to stay alive. It’s the last of its kind, they write. One article was about handmade hats, women’s wedding hats to be exact. They are amazing, lots of details and many hours put into making them. What got me all rattled was the tone of the article. They claimed that the hat boutique is closing its doors after decades of business in a world where handmade hats are too expensive and no one wants them anymore.

When I read this I jumped up from where ever I was sitting and ran to my girlfriend to weather out my anger at what I just read. No surprise there that a journalist never does proper research when writing something. Hufvud Hatmaker, and many custom hatters out there, are a living proof that handmade and custom hats are very much alive. If managed properly, it’s a thriving and sustainable business that makes people happy. The price tag is not unreasonable. Custom business is not made for mass production, it’s made for a specific niche market that respects and loves the craft as well as the quality in the product. I remember receiving my first custom made hat, they joy of opening up that box for the first time is special.

In my opinion, the era we live in is the beginning of a world where custom and unique products are sought after. If, in my neighborhood, existed a custom jeans maker, a custom shirt maker and a real amazing cobbler, I would be in there every other month to plan out my new pair of clothing. Sure the price tag would be higher, but I would gladly customize and pay a bit more for a pair of jeans that fit and lasts longer than 6 months. Less impact on the environment, more job opportunities. Less shopping stress. Frankly speaking, it’s how the world used to be. My grandfather was a 2 m tall gentleman that had to have custom shoes made, custom suites and other clothing. It took time, and it was not as expensive as it was today (still it was big chunk of his income). Living costs rise and the need to earn more is greater than ever.

Hufvud thrived by not being greedy and by embracing the rules of commerce as they are today. (I still don’t have a salary, but a lot of my costs go through Hufvud, declared to the tax office quarterly) Every successful business started out by being different than the competition and challenging new norms. The closing hats shops in Sweden were solely local businesses, and you simply can’t survive by being 100% local. 95 % of my customers are not from Sweden. The product line has an impact. Being able to make a range of different hats, not just wedding hats, opens up a wider market.

Another point they wrote about in the article was that in order for the hat shop to survive was to buy factory made hats and sell as much as possible. That’s a big NO in my book. I do not wish to go factory, nor should anyone else looking to stay truly traditional and handmade. You do not have to outsource the most important part of your business to survive. If you want to be a large global corporation, then yes.

To whoever wrote that article, Hufvud just celebrated 2 years as a registered business on 18th of August 2019 and is still much alive and thriving. I am swamped with work and I just love it. I work longer hours than from a regular job and I feel happier at the end of the day. I sleep well and can get up at 5 am with a smile. Traditional craftmanship is very much alive. I would rather leave a mark on this world than to die by a desk in agony.

Are you thinking of starting a handmade business? Do it! You will never regret it. It’s not easy and it’s a long journey. Don’t be afraid of a little hard work to make others happy. Probably JFK said it the best:

We choose to go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard
— JFK

LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, the ultimate travel and adventure hat that fails to disappoint. I am making them every week and with slight variations. Why is that? Well that is what you, the client, wants. Totally custom made and with the proportions that you feel most comfortable wearing. This week I have made Leifur in 100X Beaver, a material that has been sold out, but new felts are on the way. I am still taking orders for them but I will let you know if there is any additional wait to get your hands on a hat.

RAGNAR FEDORA in 30X Beaver Blend, completed with a silver ribbon, was completed at the beginning of the week. I love the look and feel of this felt. A staple to keep in my selection of felts for years to come. Got another HJALMAR BOWLER coming up in the same felt. I have also started a very interesting fedora for a reenactment purpose. Let’s just see how it turns out next week, if I manage to finish it by then.

My studio is still undergoing setup and preparations for years to come. It’s slow but I need to be making hats at the same time.

Here is what I have finished this week and still working on for the next.

Stages of making a HUFVUD hat:

  • STAGE 1: Prepare and block out the hat (2 day process at most)

  • STAGE 2: Prepare and Stitch Sweatband - > Stamp Sweatband and Assemble (1 day)

  • STAGE 3: Attach Sweatband to the trimmed felt - > Shape and trim the brim (1 Day)

  • STAGE 4: Brim binding ( Part I, II or III) - Attach crown ribbon (2 - 3 days sewn by hand)

  • STAGE 5: Attach Liner and crease the crown/ brim -> All final touches (1 Day)

I will include these stages in future posts and you will be able to see which stage each hat is on.

Completed Hats:

  • RAGNAR FEDORA, 30X Beaver, ROYAL BLUE

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, 30X Beaver, SABLE BROWN

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, 100X Beaver, SABLE BROWN

Currently Working On:

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, 100X Beaver, SABLE BROWN - Stage 5

  • CAMPAIGN HAT, Rabbit & Hare Blend, GRAY/ BEIGE - Stage 4

  • HJALMAR BOWLER, 30X Beaver Blend, ROYAL BLUE - Stage 2

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, Rabbit & Hare Blend, SABLE BROWN - Stage 3

On The Block Next Week:

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, 100X Beaver, SABLE BROWN

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, 30X Beaver, SABLE BROWN

  • LEIFUR Lucky FEDORA, Rabbit & Hare Blend, LIGHT BROWN

I hope you are relaxed and have enjoyed the weekend!

Regards,

Mikael Einarsson | HUFVUD HATMAKER | Lund, Sweden