Not so long ago at a staff meeting we were discussing our plans for how we wanted to see Pachacuti develop over the next few years. As part of our work for the Sustainable Fair Trade Management System, we always involve staff in discussions about strategy, direction and future goals.
I had suggested that maybe closing our Ashbourne shop, which generates a relatively small part of our business turnover, could free up staff time for mail order or wholesale. However, Su, our shop manager fortunately had far more vision than I did and suggested that instead of selling a range of Fair Trade clothing and accessories alongside our hats, we focus instead on becoming a proper Hatters. As soon as the suggestion was made, myself and all of the staff agreed that this was definitely the right way forward and the plan started to materialise.
Personally, I had spent many years battling the inevitable, becoming a Hatter. Although we are internationally known for our hats, we have always supported a broad range of traditional skills from Fair Trade producers within our Ashbourne shop, from knitwear to embroidery.
However, a combination of factors on our producers' side meant that we had already decided that we could not continue designing knitwear and I realised that skills such as embroidery and hand-looming could be used for our hat collections in order to continue support for these vulnerable groups. Look out for some beautiful hand-loomed brocades and hand-embroidered ribbons in our SS13 collection!
A great day out was spent at Newark antiques fair, buying old leather cases, chairs, display cabinets and some gorgeous vintage buttons. A new display unit was made in Leek to tie in with our beautiful, existing cherry wood furniture and a 100 year old shop counter was bought and refurbished from the Ashbourne Grocers H. Smith who sadly closed down after 120 years of trading. It is really important to us that every aspect of our business is sustainable
The shop gradually began to take form, with the staff pitching in to clean and decorate. An amazing array of high quality ethical trims were brought in to fill the shelves: vintage brocades and buttons, Italian ribbons, Devon silk jacquard, Luton grosgrain, Leicester bias binding and hand-loomed Fair Trade Ecuadorian ribbons. This allows customers to personally design and choose how they want want to trim their hats. All hats, of course, continue to be Fair Trade Certified, made by our producer groups.
So on 19th April, almost 20 years to the day since I set out on that life-changing trip to Ecuador to help out a few producers in my Summer holidays and never did get around to that PhD, Pachacuti's Ashbourne boutique was re-launched as a specialist Hatters.
Livia Firth, wife of Academy award-winning actor Colin Firth, instigator of the Green Carpet Challenge and a champion of Fair Trade fashion, cut the ribbon after spending the morning working with me on some hat and bag designs for her new collection being launched by Yoox this Autumn. Also present for the opening ceremony were former Big Brother contestants Lisa and Mario who are great fans of our hats, as well as the mayor, local businesspeople and journalists.
A special mention must be made of the incredibly delicious canapés provided by Pete at The Dining Room, Ashbourne including olive muffin, chorizo madeline and asparagus sherry spendwood on toast.
If you are in the Peak District this summer then please do stop in and visit us. You don't have to buy a hat to take advantage of our range of ethical haberdashery. We have British-made bias binding which is perfect if you are making bunting for the Jubilee celebrations, or maybe you just want some unusual vintage buttons to brighten up an old cardigan!
After 20 years of selling hats as an ever-increasing proportion of a broader Fair Trade fashion business, Pachacuti can finally call itself a Hatters.