They were last seen covering Europe’s most aristocratic heads during the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, held in London on September 19. In the midst of such solemnity, hats by the Spanish firm Fernández y Roche appeared, which throughout 2022 manufactured and exported a total of 92,000 pieces of felt from a small corner of Seville, in the neighboring municipality…

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They were last seen covering Europe’s most aristocratic heads during the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, held in London on September 19. Amidst so much solemnity, the sombreros of the Spanish firm Fernández y Roche, which around 2022 manufactured and exported a total of 92,000 pieces of felt from a small corner of Seville, in the nearby municipality of Salteras, 15 kilometers from the capital. This precious accessory comes from this Andalusian city of around 5,500 inhabitants until it ends up adorning not only the heads of the British royal family and guests at their events, but also the models of the French brand Dior on its international catwalks (such as the fashion show held in last June in Seville) and the flight attendants of Emirates and Qatar Airlines, among other major international clients.

But these customers were neither the first nor the only ones. Harrison Ford has worn it before, with the unmistakable hat of his iconic Indiana Jones character in the film. in search of the lost ark (1981); also Colin Firth, in The king’s speech (2010) and, as the core of the business, almost all ultra-Orthodox Jews who carry this accessory, on a mandatory basis, in any corner of the world, a group that renews their confidence in this handcrafted product every year. made in spain. It is the epic that the Sevillian firm Fernández y Roche has been creating throughout its centenary history, which in 2022 celebrated 137 years in the hands of five generations of the same family. Today they are crowned as the only factory in Spain, and one of the few left in the world, that is dedicated to the complete process of making hats in a completely artisanal way.

The Spanish company Fernández y Roche, which has been in the hands of five generations of the same family for 137 years, has its factory in a corner of Seville, in the neighboring municipality of Salteras. In the image, general view of its headquarters.

PACO BRIDGES

Founded in 1885 by Sevillian businessmen José Fernández and Antonio Roche, the milliner took its first steps right at the accessory’s greatest splendor. Currently, 60 people, most of them women, work in his factory. PACO BRIDGES
Salteras hats adorn the heads of the British royal family and guests at their events, but also the models of the French fashion house Dior on its international catwalks and the hostesses of Emirates and Qatar Airlines, among other major international clients. .
PACO BRIDGES
The company manufactures 500 hats a day and is a perfect mesh of people and machines that have perpetuated this centuries-old trade. In 2022 they manufactured and exported a total of 92,000 pieces of felt from this small corner of Seville. PACO BRIDGES
All Hasidic Jews from the populous ultra-Orthodox community in the United States, mostly gathered in the neighborhood of Williamsburg (New York), wear hats manufactured by Fernández and Roche. PACO BRIDGES
Each piece is made with rabbit, hare and beaver hair and mounted on felts in a single piece, which are finally sanded with shark skin. PACO BRIDGES
La Sevillana is crowned today as the only factory in Spain, and one of the few left in the world, dedicated to the complete process of making hats in a completely artisanal way.PACO BRIDGES
The laborious and slow manufacturing process of each hat has more than 200 steps. PACO BRIDGES
Fernández y Roche offers training to new employees to guarantee the highest quality and rigor in the craftsmanship of its hats, but also to technicians in the maintenance of its scarce technology, with the intact conservation of the same machinery used from its creation until the end of the century XIX. PACO BRIDGES
With an annual turnover of seven million euros, the company’s next expansion plan points to the Texan market, “the largest market for hats in the world, where 50 million people live and where there is a high purchasing power”, explains the your president. A new challenge for Seville: the conquest of the Far West.PACO BRIDGES

Upon entering the factory located in the small town of Salteras in Seville, where 60 people —mostly women— work today, history and avant-garde cross paths in the manufacture of this accessory, as if it were impossible to explain. the success of this family business —which has no national or European competitors— without the perfect combination of both factors. Founded in 1885 by Sevillian entrepreneurs José Fernández and Antonio Roche, this millinery took its first steps in the accessory’s greatest splendor. “In the first third of the 20th century, it became one of the most important companies in Seville and the country in terms of turnover, employment (with more than 500 workers) and turnover”, recalls Enrique Fernández, great-grandson of the founder and current president of the company.

However, the advent of the global movement known as no hat From the 1940s, right at the end of World War II, he saw the business falter until they feared for its survival. “That’s when the urgent need to export arises, as the national market is very small, although the international market also continues to fall, with the closure of large factories. Those were years of enormous business weakness, between the 40s and 70s”, says the president.

Enrique Fernández (left) and Abraham Mazuecos, president and general manager, respectively, of the artisanal hat factory Fernández y Roche. PACO BRIDGES

The true renaissance of the Sevillian milliner took place —and with it, the beginning of a new era for the company— with its opening to the Jewish market in the 1970s, which made it a world leader in its sector. “The ultra-Orthodox are the largest hat-wearing community in the world. Our way out was to look for a market in that niche where our product was not a fashion item, but a must-use item”, explains Fernández. And so they arrived in New York, home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the world.

It can be said, without mincing words, that all the Hasidic Jews of the populous ultra-Orthodox community of the United States, gathered for the most part in the neighborhood of Williamsburg (New York), wear hats made in this placid corner of Andalusia. “Today, the Jewish customer constitutes the largest market for the company in the United States and Israel, has given us diffusion as a prestigious brand and has led us to master the highest quality requirements”, explains Abraham Mazuecos, general director of the company.

This factory, which produces 500 hats a day, is, in fact, a perfect mesh of people and machines that perpetuated this century-old trade, but for which, says its president, “generational change” seems to exist. Fernández y Roche offers training not only to its new employees to guarantee the highest quality and rigor in the handmade manufacture of its hats —a very slow process with more than 200 steps—, but also to technicians to maintain their scarce technology, with the intact integrity conservation of the same machinery used since its beginnings at the end of the 19th century. It is also an example of sustainability, with 0% emissions and treatment of its animal product, understood as a by-product of the food industry.

Replica of the hat used in the Indiana Jones films, made by the Sevillian artisan hat company Fernández y Roche. PACO BRIDGES

The Jewish hat allowed Fernández y Roche to consolidate itself as a world reference and expand its production to other lines of business, getting closer to the fashion industry. At the end of the 2022 financial year, winning over clients such as the French Dior allowed the Seville factory to manufacture a total of 1,000 pieces for the show of its Cruise 2023 collection, held last summer at Plaza de España, in Seville. . The Asian market, with a strong presence in Japan, a major importer of the classic wide-brimmed Cordovan hat, also confirms the leadership of this millinery, consolidated in Europe with the export of its bowler hats and top hats to the United Kingdom, where its supplier is famous Lock & Co. Hatters, the oldest millinery shop in the world —it was founded in 1676—, located on St. James’s Street, in central London, and whose main client is the British royal family. At Lock they receive 4,000 hats a year from Seville.

Having conquered all these territories, and with an annual turnover of seven million euros, the next expansion plan for Fernández y Roche —which has 80% of its business in exports— looks to the Texan market, “the biggest market for hats of the world, where 50 million people live and purchasing power is high”, explains its president. A new challenge for Seville: the conquest of the Far West.