Introducing the Ecuador Hat

We’re changing the name of our first-ever product. Here’s why. 

Over ten years ago, when we set out to build Cuyana, preserving heritage craft was core to our mission. We wanted to do everything we could to maintain centuries-old traditions all over the world, from silk sewing in China to cotton production in Peru. Our first-ever product, the Panama* Hat, was no exception. 

In 2011, our Co-Founder Karla Gallardo traveled back to her home country of Ecuador to work alongside the Sigsig Ecuadorian community and created Cuyana’s first collection of Ecuador Hats — a popular global commodity that originates from a centuries-old tradition of sustainably harvesting and weaving toquilla straw. However, we knew from the beginning that its name was a misnomer — this hat was not invented in Panama. It was invented by skilled Ecuadorian artisans. 

While the Ecuador Hat originated in Ecuador, it rose to popularity when photographed on Teddy Roosevelt at the Panama Canal inauguration — and that’s how this hat got its name. But the truth is, from palm frond to finish, the process of creating a Panama* Hat is a true labor of love that originated in Ecuador.

There was once a time when local craftsmanship — a more sustainable and meaningful way of making products — drove our retail economy. Today, the future of heritage craft traditions is threatened by mass-production practices. While producing at a mass scale is inherently worse for the environment, it also jeopardizes heritage craft by diminishing the demand for locally-made goods. This is how products become disconnected from their origin stories. Our work is to give the makers and communities behind craft traditions a voice with the hope of keeping these traditions alive. 

After nearly twelve years of producing this product in Ecuador, where it originated, we are finally changing the name to honor its story. Meet The Ecuador Hat, an emblem of Ecuadorian culture and craftsmanship. Woven from toquilla straw, the hat is brought to life by a tradition of weaving that has been passed down from generation to generation. We are proud to keep that tradition alive. 

We traveled to Ecuador, the origin of our Co-Founder and CEO Karla Gallardo, countless times over the years to connect with the women behind The Ecuador Hat. As an art that is now part of our global supply chain, the tradition of weaving toquilla straw is a story that is core to Cuyana. In Quechua, an indigenous language of South America, Cuyana means “to love.” Our brand was named in this language to honor the women who wove our first collection, whose hands bring this treasure to life. 

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