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Panizza has been making the best hats in the world since 1879, the year of its foundation, thanks to the attention and genius of Giovanni Panizza, the head of a long dynasty of expert Italian hatters. When Giovanni Panizza retired to private life, he left the business to his friend and partner Natale Gamba, whose children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have continued to successfully run the hat factory to the present day.
Over the years, they have wanted to keep the great manufacturing and artisanal skills, conquered and learned since the beginning and still the pride and symbol of the company.
Felt, a mixture of fur or wool appropriately treated, has always been the real star, skilfully hand-crafted by the master hatters of the Panizza factory.
At first, the felt was made in the factory on the shores of Lake Maggiore, which today is the home of the Hat Museum. Today, however, the work is carried out in Montevarchi, in Tuscany.
How a Panizza comes into being
The different types of felt
Felt is not a fabric, but a mixture of fur or wool, made up of a myriad of short and individual fibres of animals which, due to their natural tendency to amalgamate, are matted and woven closely together, when treated with hot water and steam.
Thanks to the fulling process, the result is similar, by compactness, to a fabric.
However, felt has intrinsic characteristics which make it different from any other fabric:
it is more solid than fabrics, as every single fibre is woven with many other fibres;
it can be smoother than fabrics, as it is made from fine, individual fibres which are woven in every direction, rather than in groups of twisted fibres;
it is lighter than fabrics, as a minimum amount of fibres is sufficient to obtain the solidity desired; for the same reason, felt is also more elastic than fabrics;
it is more waterproof than any other fabric, thanks to the close matting of its animal fibres that avoid humidity being absorbed.
Fur felt hats are superior to others because they are lighter, softer to the touch, keep their shape and are resistant to time and remodelling. A good blend of fur is the appropriate combination of long fibre and short fibre fur; the former allows obtaining a good degree and quality of felting, whilst the short fur fibres fill in the gaps, giving a smooth surface and compactness. Traditional fur felt hats are mainly made from rabbit fur. Depending on the quality of the hat to be obtained, different types of fur are used: for hats of superior quality, hare fur is used, often combined with rabbit fur; to make hats of very fine quality, premium beaver fur is used.
For it to be suitable to be made into a hat, the fur has to undergo several combinations and processes of refinement. Once combined, the fur is then blown, by a process that unravels it and removes impurities, giving rise to a very long ribbon of absorbent grey cotton, which is very light and woolly. A large floppy cone is obtained from the fur which, subsequently, is appropriately reduced and stiffened to obtain the finished product.
This is how the felting process begins: under the action of the heat of the water, the fibres contract and mat together in a loose layer of felt. Felting will end only when the felt has taken on the final shape and size.
Forming the cone on the baster represents the key point in the making of a felt hat. The machine is made up of a cylindrically-shaped upright chamber, with a slowly revolving and micro-perforated copper cone rising from its base.
An exhaust fan underneath sucks the air, matting the hair on the cone which is in the chamber. After weighing the amount of fur necessary for a hat, it is put into the upper part of the chamber.
Sucked by the exhaust fan, it rests on the revolving cone, whilst the fibres are interwoven in all directions.
At that point, the cone is carefully wrapped in warm unrefined hemp cloths and is immersed briefly into a vat of hot water.
The felt is given a rudimentary stiffening by dampening it and pulling it over a wooden block, whereas the final stiffening is achieved using steam and an iron. Until the stiffening, the felt undergoes other treatment and is subsequently dyed, a delicate technical operation, normally carried out during the first stage of felting.
Specifically, the 5 stages of the creation of a Panizza Hat are:
The steam makes this weave of fur pliable, allowing the crown and the brim to be gradually broadened on the cone. The crown must have its oval, measurement and shape.
When the crown is finished with pressing, the brim is shaped, ironing it on wooden circles and then drying it with sacks that contain warm sand.
The different finishes of felt include pouncing or, for more sophisticated models, a fur finish. For a particularly glossy and elegant result, special machines are used, with sharkskin dissolving the interwoven fur on the surface.
Lastly, the grosgrain ribbon finished with a bow, the lining and the inner leather band of the hat with the brand and the name of the retailer printed on it are prepared and applied.
After the final control, the hats are carefully packaged.
Wearing a Panizza
Each Panizza hat is unique, exactly like each of us. When choosing a hat, it is always worthwhile remembering that there is a perfect model for every shape and type of face, to harmonize with the person's features.
A hat is a real item of clothing, not only an accessory, capable of bestowing elegance, personality and originality.
A hat can complete a look, exalt it or renew it; it can enhance the posture, attract attention and give a different appearance depending on the model chosen.
A hat is a detail of style that becomes a protagonist, just as the Man and Woman who wear Panizza are the protagonists of their lives: they love to travel and put themselves to the test, they love sophistication and luxury, with a hint of adventure.