Quito, Ecuador | February 2011
As many living in the northern hemisphere attempt to seek the sun and chase away the winter doldrums, it is always summer in the Galapagos Islands. Whether you are a lady or a gent, what better accessory than the perfect hat with which to while away a lazy day on the beach? Colicoco's search for the perfect summer hat ended with the discovery of METIER, an Ecuador-based company selling beautiful hats handmade by local artisans. One of METIER's three founders, Hugo Gonzenbach, took time out of photo shoot in the Galapagos to chat with Colicoco.
METIER is a relatively new company with global aspirations. Founded in 2009 by Hugo Gonzenbach, Diana Pazmiņo and Alessandro Benincasa, all of whom have backgrounds in business or environmental consulting. During a stint in the United Kingdom, Pazmiņo and Benincasa took samples of Ecuadorian crafts to test the waters of the British consumer market.
As the trio combed Ecuador for crafts native to the country, they noticed the common problem of underpayment among artisans. This lack of pay was in turn causing many to practice their skills in other countries. After this discovery the METIER mission was born: "to rescue traditional practices of elaborating handcrafts in the communities of third world countries by innovating designs, assuring quality and creating direct links between the craftsmen and the final consumers." The name -- French for "the natural ability to do something good" -- soon followed.
The company, which emphasizes craftsmanship, quality, and innovation, started small but mightily with the urban style hat, which is internationally known as a Panama hat despite having Ecuadorian origins. This hat, woven out of "toquilla straw," became an overnight success. Colicoco can see why -- it is indeed a perfectly shaped fedora that works on women and men alike.
In its small but significant history as a company, METIER's rise has been, well, meteoric, and fueled by the social agenda behind its success. Explains Gonzenbach, "Our main concept is to show the world the high quality there is in hand-made products which are sold directly to the final consumers around the world. In this way craftsmen have a larger share on the value chain of their products."
METIER crafts custom made hats for the national market, mainly for Quito and Guayaquil. Although Panama hats have been exported from Ecuador for years, METIER's innovative designs have taken the national and international markets by storm. As Gonzenbach explains, the brand has taken off so quickly in Ecuador that folks now are starting to refer to their urban style hat as a "METIER." He adds, "For the Ecuadorian market it is as special as an Ecuadorian product but with an international look and style." The brand and this product have indeed produced beautiful music together, and we look forward to seeing METIER's further expansion into other accessories such as scarves and jewelry. For now, fashionistas everywhere can feel good about the look and the cause behind this emerging stylish brand. As for Colicoco, although a trip to Galapagos is perhaps not in the cards this year, she is logging onto the information superhighway to buy her METIER for the sun and beaches that await!
Shoppers around the world can purchase hats through METIER's website (www.metiercrafts.com). Additionally, METIER sells its wares at Equatorial Native, a boutique that it co-owns located on Charles Darwin Avenue, Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos. A METIER shop on mainland Ecuador is also slated for the near future.