The Montecristi Panama is woven from the toquilla palm, which grows wild in the humid, fertile coastal lowlands of Ecuador. Select leaves of these palms are gathered while young, and split into "ribbons".
The ribbons are repeatedly dipped in boiling water, shaken well and air dried in the shade. Once dry, the fiber is worked on individually, divided many times with a sharpened fingernail, or small tool. From those threads, the weaver will select straw based on its color, suppleness and fineness of fibre.Age of hatmaking. flawless finishing.
For only a few hours in the cool of the early morning and evening, when the straw is at its most soft and pliable, the Montecristi Panama is woven over a wooden block, supported by a wooden tripod which acts as a support for the weaver. It's important that we respect the artisans who weave a great Montecristi, by properly crafting them into beautifully finished, wearable hats.
Our hat bodies are collected from the weavers all through the year, and it's then that the next ones are commissioned. Keeping Optimo well stocked with a variety of grades, sizes, brim widths and crown heights is important. The material should never be shrunk or over-stretched in order to fit a certain size/style. At no time should the integrity of the straw be compromised. Optimo has since been dedicated to resurrecting a quality of material, weave and finish that the best in the industry were committed to several decades ago. Greatly respecting the master weavers work, our staff have spent countless hours learning and refining their skills.
Sadly, most buyers don’t know what to look for in a great Panama. All too often, poorly woven and/or poorly finished hats are purchased by tourists and customers looking for a “deal.” Unfortunately, this simply encourages poor weaving and poor finishing.