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THE HATTER

From bookazine no. 2, which has long been sold out, I have put all the articles from this issue online. You can find the full-text articles here #bookazine2

March 2020

 

A little history:

Traditionally, hat-making has been divided into two professions. The hatter pressed hats, some specializing in straw hats, others in felt hats. The hatter’s work was based on efficient and systematic procedures. The milliners, on the other hand, sewed and decorated hats – producing unique headwear.

As with other trades, each town of a certain size would have its own hatters and milliners.

From the advent of industrialization in the late 19th century, the hatter’s trade was more commonly turned over to industrial workers. For example, the hat factory established at Brede Klædefabrik (Brede Cloth Mill) in 1890 and later, in 1913, moved to Skodsborg, had up to 200 employees at some point and made as many as 500,000 hats, mainly for the domestic market. The factory closed in 1970.

Today, hat-making in Europe is a highly specialized niche craft.

Whether people call themselves hatters or milliners today seems to be largely a matter of personal preference. For anyone seeking formal training, milliner is the only option.

 

Internationally

The world’s oldest active hat-maker’s firm is James Lock & Co in London, which was founded in 1676.
Borsalino in Italy, which is known in particular for fedoras, was founded in 1857.

 

Procedure

The felt or straw weave is saturated with lacquer and then steamed. When the steam has heated the material, the lacquer is activated, and with skilled, expert hands and special tools, the hatter quickly fits the hat over the selected wooden hat block. As the hat then dries in an airing cupboard, the lacquer sets and helps the hat keep its shape. Next, the hat is steamed again, brushed and equipped with an interior band and finally decorated with a hat band and any additional ornaments.

Andersen & Berner – always on the move

Let the cobbler stick to his last – a saying that seems to advocate stagnation and narrow-mindedness.

There does not seem to be a similar saying pertaining to hatters. Nevertheless, the 57-year-old hatter Stig Andersen has stuck to his trade since the age of five years, when he made his first hat in the company that his father, John Andersen, ran with his colleague Flemming Berner.

Does that mean he is being held back by conformity or narrow-mindedness?

No, although the space is a bit tight in the temporary workshop that occupies one of the a barn in the own of Annisse, 50 km north of Copenhagen.

Stig moved his home and his company, Andersen & Berner, to the countryside in 2019, when he – like many other craft and design companies – was forced out of his premises in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district by rent increases. He had been in Nørrebro since 1983.

He now plans to buy a larger property in the country with room for both his home and his business. As a sideline, Stig and his wife sell antiques and curios, and that requires storage space! Right now, the old mirrors and dressers are competing for space with hat blocks, materials and hat-making equipment in the fairly modestly sized room.

‘Imagine if a large number of small, creative businesses decided to leave Copenhagen and resettle in the same village – where they would find affordable houses and ample space and could act as each other’s network,’ he says, savouring the vision, while also admitting that he is doing quite okay, alone in the barn.

He thrives with the combination of relatively monotonous working procedures and the conversations with international clients – whom he rarely meets face to face but connects with via phone calls and emails – and people who come to the countryside to order a hat.

‘The private customers love to visit,’ says Stig, ‘they drive in from far away; distance doesn’t seem to matter if you are a regular, or if you’ve had a good craftsperson recommended to you! In the summertime, we take our antiques to market, and then we bring the panama hats; they’re a popular item and it gives me an opportunity to meet new customers.’

This variation between extrovert and introvert activities has characterized Stig’s working life from the outset.

A working life that is not the product of a goal-oriented career plan. He just never considered having it any other way. It is clear from our conversation that it has been fun and inspiring. Stig has met the nicest, funniest and most eccentric types and witnessed the transformations of the business, and he meets it all with an open mind, always seeing possibilities rather than limitations.

He may have begun in production at the age of five years, but he trained in sales and was not involved in the production full-time until 1979, when he took over Andersen & Berner from his father.

Andersen & Berner began as the ugly duckling of the industry, founded by two newly trained hatters. From modest beginnings in a basement in Brønshøj, it grew into a proud and respected swan that even had a shop on Copenhagen’s main pedestrian street, Strøget. The two hatters were adept at decoding international trends and bold enough to go abroad to buy the sought-after wooden hat blocks. The company’s archive contains more than 5,000 different blocks.

Andersen & Berner always made both finished hats under the company’s own as well as models that milliners around the world decorated and finished. In addition, then as now, Andersen & Berner is a supplier to fashion design firms. Stig has been involved during times with a high demand for hats as well as times when hardly anyone wore hats. The 1980s were a good time for hatters; during the 1990s demand dwindled, but then Henrik Vibskov and Soulland stopped by Stig’s to do a hat tip, and business picked up again for a while.

When things really slowed down, Stig established Andersen & Berner as suppliers for showbiz, film and theatre, which subsequently provided ample work, especially since Andersen & Berner is now a one-man army.

‘The industry can hardly be called an industry any more,’ says Stig, ’there are so few left still produce handmade hats in this part of the world, and only the hat-making workshop at the Royal Danish Theatre still trains milliners.’

While hat-making is no longer a profession for the many, there is still a demand for unique designs and niche products. Handmade and bespoke products are the most exquisite luxury items today, and the hatter’s old craft survives to this day in a contemporary form.

There are few hatters left, but the ones who are still around are determined, and they are all unique.

Apart from Stig Andersen, who continues undaunted, adjusting his business to the vagaries of time, Susanne Juul has had successful as a milliner since 1991. She is trained both as a men’s tailor and as a milliner and is known for her unfailing sense of style and is a certified purveyor to the Danish Royal Court. She recently moved her workshop and boutique from the centre of Copenhagen to the city’s Østerbro district.

Another colleague is Peter Robert Hornskov, a self-taught hatter, who runs the hat-making firm Hornskov together with his wife, Christine Hornskov. Hornskov has a classic style with a contemporary touch. On several occasions, the company has used the crowd-founding platform Kickstarter to raise capital and to spread awareness of the company internationally. At the time of writing, Hornskov is in the process of moving out of Copenhagen to set up a new workshop.

There may be a few other full-time hatters that I have missed, and there is a handful of milliners who work in theatres, combined with their own creative/artistic projects.

A hat tip to all of them!

 

Lidt historie:

Traditionelt har hattefaget været opdelt. Det var hattemageren, som pressede hatte. Nogle pressede stråhatte, andre filthatte. Hattemagerens arbejde var sat i effektivt system. Det var modisterne, som syede og dekorerede, det var modisterne, som lavede unika.

Ligesom det gjorde sig gældende for andre håndværksfag, så havde hver by sin eller sine hattemagere og modister.

Fra og med industrialiseringens indtog i slutningen af 1800-tallet var en hattemager langt oftere en industriarbejder. Som eksempel beskæftigede hattefabrikken, der blev etableret på Brede Klædefabrik i 1890, og siden i 1913 flyttede til Skodsborg, i en periode op mod 200 mennesker og fremstillede årligt op imod 500.000 hatte primært til hjemmemarkedet. Fabrikken lukkede i 1970.

Nu er fremstilling af hatte i Europa et nørdet nichehåndværk.

Om man kalder sig hattemager eller modist synes nu at være en smagssag. Vil man tage en formel uddannelse, er det modist, man kan blive.

 

Internationalt

Verdens ældste stadig fungerende hattemager er James Lock & Co i London, som blev grundlagt 1676. Borsalino i Italien, som især er kendte for deres fedorahatte, blev etableret i 1857.

 

Arbejdsgangen

Den lakmættede filt eller flet dampes. Når materialet er varmet op med damp, aktiveres lakken, og hattemageren arbejder med hurtige og rutinerede hænder og sit værktøj over den valgte træform, derefter sættes hatten til tørre i et tørreskab, og lakken stivner igen og bidrager til, at hatten holder sin facon. Så langt modellen, som herefter skal dampes, børstes og forsynes med indvendigt bånd, slutteligt bliver hatten dekoreret med bånd og evt. pynt.

Andersen & Berner – i stadig bevægelse

Skomager bliv ved din læst, hedder en gammel talemåde, den sætning emmer af jantelov og lavt til loftet.

Der er så vidt vides ikke en tilsvarende talemåde for hattemagere. Ikke desto mindre er 57-årige Stig Andersen, som er hattemager, ikke veget fra faget, siden han som 5-årig fremstillede sin første hat i den virksomhed, som hans far, John Andersen, drev sammen med kollegaen Flemming Berner.

Det være sagt, så er der ingen tyngende jantelov over hans historie, og lavt til loftet?

Nej, men lidt trangt er der i det midlertidige værksted, som ligger i den ene ende af en lade i Annisse 50 km nord for København.

Stig flyttede med sin virksomhed Andersen & Berner på landet i 2019, da han som flere andre håndværks- og designvirksomheder, i sit daværende lejemål på Nørrebro i København, blev sat til vægs af huslejestigninger. På Nørrebro havde han holdt til siden 1983.

Tanken er nu at købe en større ejendom på landet, som kan rumme både bolig og erhverv. Stig er også interesseret i antikviteter og kuriosa og har sammen med sin kone salg af sådant som bibeskæftigelse. Det kræver lagerplads! Lige nu trænges de gamle spejle og kommoder med hatteforme, materialer og maskiner i det relativt beskedne rum.

”Tænk, hvis mange kreative små virksomheder samtidigt bestemte sig for at flytte ud af København til den samme landsby, ud til billige huse, god plads og muligheden for at være hinandens netværk,” siger han drømmende, men indrømmer samtidig, at han nu trives meget godt alene i laden.

Kombinationen af de relativt monotone arbejdsprocesser afbrudt af samtalerne med de internationale kunder, som han sjældent møder personligt, men er i telefon- og mailkontakt med, og de hyggelige folk, som kommer på landet for at bestille en hat, passer ham ganske godt.

”De private kunder elsker at komme herud,” fortæller Stig, ”de kommer kørende langvejs fra, afstanden betyder tilsyneladende ikke noget, når man er fast kunde eller har fået en god håndværker anbefalet! Om sommeren tager vi på marked med antikviteterne, og så har vi panamahattene med, de er populære og giver mulighed for at komme i kontakt med nye kunder.”

Vekselvirkningen mellem det udadvendte og det indadvendte har fulgt Stig hele hans arbejdsliv.

Et arbejdsliv, som ikke er et produkt af en snorlige karriereplan. Det kom bare aldrig på tale, at det kunne være anderledes. At det har været sjovt og inspirerende, fremgår af samtalen. Stig har mødt de skæveste, sødeste og mest excentriske typer og været vidne til branchens omskiftelighed, og han møder det hele med åbent sind og ser muligheder frem for begrænsninger.

Nok startede han i produktionen som 5-årig, men han uddannede sig på salgssiden og blev først involveret på fuld tid i produktionen i 1979, da han overtog driften af Andersen & Berner efter sin far.

Andersen & Berner blev etableret som branchens grimme ælling, af to nyuddannede hattemagere, og voksede sig fra ’ingenting’ i en kælder i Brønshøj til en stolt og respekteret svane, som i en periode havde butik på Strøget i København. De herrer var dygtige til at afkode internationale trends og modige nok til at rejse til udlandet efter de eftertragtede træforme. Arkivet rummer flere end 5.000 varianter på træforme til pulde.

Andersen & Berner har altid produceret både færdige hatte i eget navn og presset modeller, som modister rundt omkring i verden har dekoreret videre på. Desuden er Andersen & Berner nu som tidligere underleverandør til designvirksomheder i modebranchen. Stig har været med i perioder, hvor der har været tale om stor efterspørgsel på hatte, og han har været med i perioder, hvor hatten har været næsten helt ude af gadebilledet. I 80’erne gik det godt, i 90’erne lukkede det hele ned, så kom der en Henrik Vibskov og Soulland forbi, som ville på hat med Stig, og så var der igen nok at se til i en periode.

Da det gik trægest, etablerede Stig Andersen & Berner som leverandør til showbizz, film- og teaterbranchen. Det har siden givet rigeligt med beskæftigelse. Især fordi Andersen & Berner nu er en enmandshær.

”Branchen, den kan knap længere kaldes en branche,” fortæller Stig, ”der er så få, som håndfremstiller hatte på vores breddegrader, og kun Det Kgl. Teaters hatteværksted uddanner modister.”

Samtidig med at faget har lukket og slukket som et fag for de mange, så er der en efterspørgsel efter det unikke og det nicheprægede. Håndlavet og individuelt er vor tids største luksus, og tilværelsen som håndværker har også i hattebranchen fået en nutidsvariant.

De er ikke mange, men de er stålsatte, og de er forskellige.

Foruden Stig Andersen, som fortsætter ufortrødent med at justere forretningen efter tidernes gunst og ugunst, så er der Susanne Juul, som siden 1991 har haft succes som modist. Hun er uddannet både herreskrædder og modist og kendt for sin sikre stil og for at være hofleverandør. Hun har netop flyttet sit værksted og sin butik fra indre by til Østerbro i København

Der er Peter Robert Hornskov. Han er selvlært hattemager og driver sammen med sin kone, Christine Hornskov, hattemagervirksomheden Hornskov. Hornskov dyrker det klassiske, men på sin egen tidssvarende måde. Virksomheden har ad flere omgange benyttet crowdfounding platformen Kickstarter både for at rejse kapital, men også for at udbrede kendskabet til virksomheden internationalt. Hornskov er i skrivende stund ved at flytte ud af København for at etablere nyt værksted.

Der er måske et par fuldtidsbeskæftigede yderligere, som jeg ikke har kendskab til. Desuden er der en håndfuld modister, som arbejder på teatrene kombineret med egen kreativ/kunstnerisk virksomhed.

Hatten af for dem alle!

 

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