Carry Somers is the founder of Pachacuti (pronounced pa-cha-cu-tee) the UK’s only fair trade hat company, and winners of the Observer Ethical Fashion Award 2011. Hooray!
After completing an MA in Native American studies, Somers went off on a PhD research trip to Ecuador, in 1992, armed with a copy of Anita Roddick’s autobiography. Inspired by the Body Shop’s influence on the beauty industry, Somers decided to do the same for fashion. With just £500 and no background in design, she produced a knitwear collection which sold out in six weeks, ‘Seeing the tangible difference this made to the producers’ livelihoods, I gave up my PhD to run Pachacuti.’
Widely known for their Andean Panamas – the Archbishop of Canterbury wears one! – Pachacuti also have an extensive range of felt hats. As of next week, their Fedoras will be available from Net-a-Porter and then on the company’s website www.panamas.co.uk from September:
‘I have a collection of felt cloches in different styles as these are just so useful for winter weather, withstanding any amount of rain,’ says Somers. So does she have a closet full of Panamas too? ‘My collection varies somewhat from year to year, as I’m very good at putting my hat down at shows, such as Chelsea Flower Show, and then coming back and finding it has been sold!’ This year, Yasmin le Bon and Sol Campbell both bought hats, think we can figure out who’s wearing yours, Carry.
Here’s Helen Mirren in Pachacuti at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show:
The company’s priority is to build sustainable rural livelihoods for the Chilean weavers, who are often single mums or the wives of miners, by supporting local communities and funding social programmes. Somers travels to South America about three times a year for training and research purposes, and recently when some of the elderly producers mentioned they found working on the finer styles difficult due to poor eyesight and arthritis, Pachacuti raised money for glasses and introduced a range of looser weave crochet hats, ‘ Surprisingly, the brightly coloured and patterned styles we introduced are woven on average one hour faster than the same Panama hat in a natural colour.’
Hats off to Carry Somers.
You can buy Pachacuti hats online at www.panamas.co.uk or from their Derbyshire store (19 Dig Street, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 1GF. Tel: 01335 300003). Prices start at around £40.