The SJC Story
Having been diagnosed with melanoma at a young age, founder and designer, Sarah J Curtis understands better than most, the need of fashion-forward, yet classic, sun protection.
Bringing together a love of summertime, travel, sun protection and quality craftsmanship, Sarah works closely with local Artisans living in the Andes of Ecuador. She works with various communities to create her signature styles, core collections and seasonal wide brim hats that look stylish and fabulous whilst offering maximum sun protection all year round. Celebrated for her unique take on the traditional Panama hat, Sarah works with the Artisans in an ethical and 100% sustainable manner using only toquilla straw for her Spring/Summer collections. Whilst her Winter/Fall collections are made using always 100% Australian Merino wool.
All SJC hats are handcrafted by the same group of artisans from the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. A labour of love, each piece is woven by the same individual, with some styles taking up to 15 weeks to complete. The weaving from this location is an ancestral technique, passed down from generation to generation, which has been recognised by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Genuine toquilla straw hats are woven in Ecuador with a traditional, ancestral technique which dates back to the prehistoric Valdivia culture (4.000 B.C) - one of the oldest recorded cultures in the Americas. The toquilla straw is derived by hand from the Carludovica Palm Tree, which grows predominantly in the coastal cloud forest of Ecuador, thus making Ecuadorian hats nearly impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world.
From the harvesting to the weaving, each element is by hand of the artisans. The straw is harvested from the palm leaf buds, which are stripped to obtain the soft core, boiled and left in the hot Ecuadorian sun to dry. The harvesters take their produce to market, where each artisan carefully selects their material to weave. Each piece takes between 2 days to 15 weeks to complete, depending on the size of the brim, weave style and fineness of the straw. It's not uncommon to see artisans travelling through their community, taking their weaving with them.Each piece is woven from the inside in a circular motion, at home and at the weaver’s own pace, surrounded by the landscape of the incredible Andes Mountains. The hats are then processed in the workshop: ironing, shaping and adding the ribbon or embroidery detail to finish.
In supporting SJC and the weavers, this cultural technique is kept alive - with each hat helping to maintain community wellbeing and traditional values. The harvest of the raw material - the palm leaf buds of the Carludovica Palm Tree - is an environmentally sustainable practise, as only the ripe buds are removed, without harming the mother plant. No chemicals or pesticides are used to support the growth of the Carludovica Palm Tree, which is a native species to the area. Boiled water is reused, and the heat of the sun is used to dry the straw.