Panama Hat Installation

Approaching our projects, we rarely take the easy route!

A Hotel Project

At Lincombe Hall Hotel, where we started with the design of an award winning spa, we’ve now designed a stylish brasserie and are currently working on further public rooms. It is the reception, however, that introduces one to the establishment and really sets the tone.

Faced with a large expanse of blank wall, how then to provide interest, a talking point, a surprise and something with great originality?

Paris Exhibition

A small display of hats at an exhibition in Paris some years back, sparked a thought! To create a wall of hats – as an art installation. Hats don’t just need to be worn – they’re interesting shapes and three dimensional. The sheen of the natural straw creates light and dark, and the palette of colours are all fantastic credentials for visual impact.

Finding a supplier was going to be key. The palette became very specific, ranging from olive, mustard, burnt orange, tobacco and ruby red.

The Panama Hat Company

After a few false starts I found the answer to our search – The Panama Hat Company. They create top end Panama hats using the very best materials – handwoven in Ecuador but made in England. I quickly established a great working relationship, and Mavi wholeheartedly entered into the spirit of the project. ‘Hoods’ were sent to us (the basic hat before it’s shaped into a perfect Panama) so that we could select our preferred palette. Having worked out our design , we chose a style to fit our wall. We’ve also ordered extras as we plan to use a selection to create a lit feature behind the reception desk – watch this space!

The Manufacturing Process

As the manufacture of our hats took shape, I was treated to a ‘virtual tour’ of the factory and became fascinated by the back story of this Panama Hat process.

Operating from original milliner premises in Luton, with machinery and millinery blocks dating back over one hundred years, here is a precision craft that has been handed down over the generations. Each member of the team brings a unique craft skill to make this a precision business.

History Lesson

A little history needs to be shared here! Contrary to what you might think, the Panama hat is not from Panama but Ecuador, and takes it’s name from the workers who wore it when the Panama Canal was being built. With a connection to The Ecuadorian Embassy, Mavi’s mother, Jenny, had the contacts to deal directly with the weavers in Ecuador. There is only one type of straw, Paja Toquilla, that can be used to weave the fabric of the Panama Hat – this grows extensively in the coastal region of Cuenca, Ecuador. The weaving process is key to the Panama Hat and is passed on from generation to generation. The journey from straw shoots in a field to the end product is an extraordinary process with the straw sold by farmer to specialist weavers, who then weave the rough form of a hood.

Back here in the UK, each hat is then worked individually. Coloured, shaped, sized, steamed, pressed and stitched.

Original Thinking

 Each hat really is a labour of love. Display twenty on a wall and you have a characterful display like no other. This is hat art and it’s one of a kind – go see for yourself!


Q: Why do all Panama Hats have a black band trim?

 A: This originates from 1901, the year of the death of Queen Victoria

Q: Do you often work with crafts people?

A: Yes, regularly. It’s so important to support smaller companies and individuals, and the results speak for themselves. Original and bespoke interiors.

Q: How do you come up with all of your ideas?

A: By keeping our eyes & ears open, travelling to European Interiors Exhibitions, trawling interiors magazines & following interiors on social media platforms.

Ashton House
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