Rade Hats

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Hatmaking workshop Rade is based in one of the oldest streets of Belgrade, which was known as a crafts center, with many small workshops and shops operating in the Savamala district. The store in Balkanska street is active since 1950, soon celebrating its 70th anniversary. The trade comes from the family of Goran’s wife, whose grandfather founded the workshop, later continued by her father. They now run the company together. They have three children, and hope that some of them might get involved with the continuation of the family business, but even if that does not turn out to be the case, there are younger masters of craft who could be up to it.
The artisans working with Goran come from very different backgrounds, most of them with university degrees. The founder of the workshop Radoslav Stepanović had a distinct craftsman status and a degree back in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The first members of their family started working with the craft in 1928, with some connection dating back even into the late 19th century. Goran received his training from Radoslav’s son Branislav, his father-in-law, but also had a chance to meet some of the old school masters of the trade from whom he also learned.
In the golden days, there were as many as 11 such stores only in Balkanska street, nowadays there are only two left, with both of the other masters taught by Radoslav himself. Making hats and caps have always been two distinct trades, however with Rade you get the best of both worlds.
Goran says it took him six to seven years to refine his skills and broaden the knowledge enough to restart the family trade, but he was persistent. At that time one of the remaining Serbian hat makers passed away, and Goran was able to purchase his entire workshop, including many basic moulds and necessary tools.
Currently there are six full-time employees at the workshop, with others jumping in in case of larger orders. Occasionally students and other interested individuals come to do internships and learn.

The first members of Stepanović family started working with the craft in 1928, with some links to hat-making dating back even into the late 19th century. Goran received his training from Radoslav’s son Branislav, his father-in-law, but also had a chance to meet some of the old school masters of the trade from whom he also learned.

The sales point is the emblematic little shop in downtown Belgrade, which has not changed much since its opening in the 1950s. However, the production takes place in a more spacious workshop outside the center, where Goran works hard with his dedicated team, surrounded by numerous linen materials, wooden models and other tools inherited from the rich family legacy.

The workshop mostly relies on imported materials, and machines are custom-developed and built, as there are no machines or tools in production. The process relies on improvisation, which helps them improve and rationalise their production. Older sewing machines are common tools, as for hats there are no standardised ways of using them. Many of them they customize themselves and adjust to their own needs. A multitude of materials is used — all sorts of cloths, rabbit fur, straw, wool, tweed — and in general they do require lots of material to realize their products.
The basic pattern is first laid out, while the model is previously decided upon. Then the material is cut either by hand or mechanically, after which it may be glued or sewn together based on a mould or in another way depending on the model. On average, a couple of hours are needed to finish a hat. All of the work is done in-house, and each product passes the hands of several people.

The main products are hats, caps and berets of any kind, for both men and women. Sales are done at the downtown Belgrade store, but also online, mostly over Instagram and their own website. They are certain that the best recommendation of their products is done through word of mouth between their clients. Customers are extremely diverse, from those who need hats for medical reasons, to those looking for a fresh style or maintaining a habit of wearing hats. Some customers are also visiting the store for generations.
At the same time, they work for designers and local clothing brands, so at times they enter a minor scale serial production. Finally, they work a lot with film industry and theatre when exquisite or historical pieces of costumes are needed for sets.