Iluman, the hands behind our seeker hats

By Kartika Putra

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We had travelled across South America for some time now and the journey had brought us to wonder what the significance of the hats were for all the locals and indigenous people. From country to country, to villages and towns, the hats that were worn would range from little strange bowler hats worn perched up on the crown of their heads to fedoras that would hang low and over the mens eyes.

It became our mission to find out where these hats were made and the traditional techniques that were used to make them. Questions and questions were asked to random shop owners and market stall holders until we found ourselves stranded in the middle of the street of a sleepy ecuadorian town of Iluman.

We had arrived at midday and as we wandered the streets, the eerie feeling of abandonment set in. Where was everyone? why is everyone gone? It wasn’t until we realised that the lunch time siesta sessions had started and with that, we were to wait a full hour to entertain ourselves until the sleepy town arose.

Iluman was known for its milliners and their expertise in moulding felt. We visited Zoila in her mini shop that looked out to a desolate street. It was hard to believe that this shop would gain any foot traffic let alone sales for the multitude of hats that stocked up along the front window. She took us through the factory and outdoor drying racks and into the place where her family were moulding our Blue Moon Seeker Hats. The process of moulding felt hats is a skill that has been passed on through countless generations in Zoila’s family. She had 3 generations still contributing to the production of hats and this was complimented by the other people in town bringing their children to her for their training in millinery.

Always filled with light hearted fun conversations, collaborating with Zoila and her family was something we couldn’t get enough of. They were able to produce any type of hat in every shape, form and colour. The possibilities were endless and a skill that was priceless.

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