Škrgatić Hat Making

Image

Craft of hatmaking was considered a prominent business as there were about 50 hat makers in Zagreb alone at the time Škrgatić family opened their first shop. In recent years that number decreased severely, leaving a total of three shops behind (Cahun, Kabali, Škrgatić), and altogether five retirees in the rest of Croatia (mainly in Slavonia, Varaždin and Dubrovnik).
Years of experience allowed the family to source and collect fine materials and develop a rich variety of hats in different grades, sizes and shapes. Their specialty lays in production of classical woolen and felt hats. Business built on perfecting fine craftsmanship, creating authentic and timeless headwear is however facing several challenges today, due to changes in culture and trends, local economy and customer consciousness/awareness as well as climate and environmental shifts.

With over 140 years long legacy Hat making Škrgatić holds the title of the oldest hat making production in Croatia, taking pride in the family owned and operated business rooted in knowledge transfer and polishing of the craft. Its current owner Darko Škrgatić followed in his great grandfather’s footsteps and continued the family trade in 2005 upon his completion of Faculty of Textiles, Leather and Design where he received a master hat maker title.

History and origins of hat wearing were synonymous to Zagreb’s civic culture and lifestyle and Škrgatić family business of producing hats dates back as early as 1912, witnessed by one of the forefathers who established the Vilko Vanek — Zagreb hattery and ran a hat making and millinery workshop. Hat production was separated in a courtyard of Ilica 76 where it stayed until 1938, numbering a total of 60 employees and six travelling sales spokespeople. The hat factory was later shut down and the workshop transferred but the trade continued through generations. It has been located in Heinzelova 2a since 1947, and with a current owner — master hat maker Darko Škrgatić — from 2005 onwards, marking the 6th generation of hatters (Gabrijel Vanek, Vilko and Olga Vanek, Vladimir and Josipa Škrgatić, Damir Škrgatić, Darko Škrgatić).

Entirety of the hat assortment in Škrgatić workshop is handmade, with each processing stage performed in detail: from blocking, steam blowing, to surface finishing and shaping with meticulous brushing operations keeping the purity of the material. Wool and felt capelines and cones used for production have been sourced through international hatteries since their beginnings, usually from Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany and Ukraine, with the nearest regional production based in Slovenia and Serbia that has since been unfortunately discontinued.
Wooden blocks for shaping are nowadays imported from England and Poland. There are visible changes in the quality of the produce acquired in recent years and master hat maker easily distinguish the quality of the wooden blocks, traditionally made by a woodturning technique, as well as the strength of wool and felt material, their weave structure, color and dye consistency, all of which affect the overall process and end quality of the hat making.
After initial sizing, the hat hand making process starts by dampening the material in natural fixer for stiffening (shellac) and exposing it to steam, in order to soften the fibers so they become flexible and allow the maker to stretch them over the wooden block and then mold. Process of ‘blocking’ is crucial for hat shaping, and is followed by pinning the corners of capaline or cone base into place, thus preparing the hat for drying that can take up to three days. Once dried, the material extended over the hat block is kept in shape and ready for further processing and polishing done by hand.The brim of the hat is first set by ironing and trimmed with bands or grosgrain ribbons, inner linings sewn through the crown using fine thread, after which the hat is steamed once again. Surface finish is then perfected by multiple brushing and smoothing operations to maintain its dense and rich texture, often concluded by additional special conditioning and optionally by coating with an added layer of fixer.
In comparison to industrial ones, hand made hats are better insulated against humidity and generally less prone to cracks with visibly softer finish of its brims. Potential upgrade for optimizing the production lies in semi-interchangeable wooden blocks that would allow experimenting with hat designs by combining the molds (brims, crowns, tops). In order to do so an investment into 3D modeling and prototyping is required to be implemented into practice.

Limited editions of bespoke hats include traditional Slavonian black hats that are part of the national folklore costume, custom-fitted inspired cylinders for steam punk devotees, as well as a variety of formal headwear in boater, bowler, homburg and other styles. Both male and female lines are represented in numerous classic styles Darko has also been involved in the making of several bespoke hat shapes for the film production industry, mainly in developing headwear for costume (production) design of period pieces.