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Our Products and Our Producers
The classic Panama hat is undoubtedly one of the most iconic of accessories and with a Pachacuti Panama you can ensure that style does not compromise sustainability.
Sustainable Environmental Practices
The classic panama hat epitomises the idea of slow fashion, a backlash against the disposable fashion of recent years. Panamas are made from native Ecuadorian toquilla palm, which is harvested sustainably along the coastline and most of our raw material comes from a community-owned, organic plantation which encourages biodiversity.
The entire processing of the hat uses only very mild chemicals which are then filtered through a system of tanks so that water can be constantly re-used in the production process. Eco Mapping is carried out at the premises of every supplier where we follow each production route in order to identify any issues in terms of Health & Safety, Waste Management, Energy and water use, Storage of Chemicals, risk of accidents and Pollution, machinery and emissions. When a Panama reaches the end of its life, it can simply be put on the compost heap.
Sustainable Rural Livelihoods
The Panama hat industry is dominated by perros (dogs), middlemen with unscrupulous purchasing methods. Pachacuti works with two women's co-operatives high in the Andes where our investment in training and assets has meant we have been able to eliminate the middlemen and enable the weavers to retain more of the final value of the hat.
Centuries of exploitation means that hat weaving is rapidly dying out but the higher prices paid by Pachacuti has led to 15 young apprentices joining our main women's association and there is now a waiting list to join - quite an achievement when this traitional skill is in such decline!. When Carry Somers visited the weavers in Spring 2012, the association was paying them between 60-120% more than the intermediaries price.
Our experience shows that social and economic improvements can play a vital part in improving women's levels of self-esteem. Furthermore, we are helping to affirm their indigenous identity through the preservation of their traditional skills.
Without a sustainable income to fit around the agricultural cycle, many of these women would be forced to move to urban centres or emigrate to the US to look for low-paid domestic work and would begin to lose touch with their cultural heritage. Pachacuti's Fair Trade purchasing gives the women a sustainable livelihood, enabling them to remain within their rural communities where they can fit hat weaving around the agricultural cycle and caring for their families. This is particularly important in a community where 60% of children have at least one parent living overseas which has led to the devastation of families, alcoholism, a youth suicide rate twice the world average, increasing teenage pregnancies and declining school performance.
Preserving Traditional Skills
Raw material mapping helps us to understand where every component of a product comes from in order to increase sustainable sourcing. For instance, several hats and bags in our 2013 collection will using Fair Trade, hand-loomed ribbons from northern Ecuador as well as buckles with an innovative fusion of rainforest friendly tagua nut with recycled cow horn. Other hats will use embroidered ribbons or hand-tooled local leather. The impact of this approach is summed up by Mathilda Cajas who co-ordinates our rural embroidery group. "The embroiderers ask if there are any orders from Pachacuti due to the higher Fair Trade prices paid. If there are no orders, they would rather earn money picking tree tomatoes as the market price for their skills is so low".
By ensuring just remuneration for current weavers, ensuring sustainability and training a new generation in weaving techniques, Pachacuti will ensure that the Panama hat continues to be a fashion icon into the next century.