How hats are made from scratch– using the example of the Viennese hat manufactory Mühlbauer
Interview with Klaus Mühlbauer
Mühlbauer is one of the few hat brands located Austria. The hats are produced with great care in the company's own hat factory in the centre of Vienna. In an interview with FashionTouri, managing director Klaus Mühlbauer gives an insight into the production of hats.
“Schwedenplatz” (square in the first district) in Vienna is alive with the usual hustle and bustle. People walk from the underground station to “Rotenturmstraße” (street). However, something most of these busy pedestrians aren’t aware of: a traditional hat factory can be found inside one of the buildings so very close to them. The quality, design and presentation of the products distinguishes Mühlbauer from other brands in this field. In 1903 Julianna Mühlbauer started creating and selling hats in Floridsdorf (a Viennese district). About 100 years later, Klaus Mühlbauer, member of the 4th generation of the Mühlbauer family, manages the company and has also succeeded in expanding his business and making the hats available to the international market.
Mühlbauer - the brand
The majority of hat brands such as Stetson or Kangol manufacture their headpieces in an industrial way. At Mühlbauer, manual production makes up an important part of ensuring the highest quality. “Manufacturing by hand is the best way to ensure the finished hat exudes radiance and charisma”, explains Klaus Mühlbauer. The focus lies on the design of the products. "Over the years and generations a signature style in design has developed. So to speak, like a visually perceivable heredity", says the managing director. It is important to him to constantly develop the design of the hats and to adapt it to the corresponding spirit of the times.
"Ultimately, the pioneering, daring design of our collections over the last 15 years has also led to international success," states Klaus Mühlbauer. Furthermore, this was achieved through strategic decisions in sales, investments and marketing measures in the online market. Mühlbauer also attaches great importance to the presentation of the company in the form of shop design or campaigns. Thanks to the international nature of the brand, celebrities such as Brad Pitt or Yoko Ono are among their customers, too.
Mühlbauer present themselves in a modern and elegant fashion-a characteristic that sets them apart from other hat makers. © FT/Mühlbauer
The Trade of hatters
As in other fashion sectors, hat collections are produced twice a year: for spring/summer and for autumn/winter. The two collections use different materials. "It is obvious that in summer you need something lighter because of the heat. Meanwhile in winter when it is cold outside different fabrics are utilized,” explains the managing director. In winter, materials such as felts, furs, leather or loden fabrics are used. In summer, thin fabrics and all kinds of straw fibres are the main components of the collection.
Mühlbauer focus on light materials and straw-as you can tell from the spring/summer collection of 2020.
In contrast the winter collection is generally made up of felt and fur-the pictures show the 2020 autumn/winter collection. © FT/Mühlbauer
The team behind the design of the hats consists of three people: Klaus Mühlbauer and the designers Nora Berger and Madeleine Nostitz. The new collections are often designed together in the midst of conversation and discourse on current topics. "Although I have travelled the world, the most beautiful thing about my job is developing the product. Despite doing this for 20 years, I still enjoy it," says the hatter. Throughout the design process the main focus lies on innovations and novelties.
How hats are made at Mühlbauer
How a hat is manufactured depends on the material used. Hats made out of fabrics or furs are sewn together following a certain pattern. With felt or straw the process of making a hat is different. The following pictures describe this process:
First the cheroot of the hat (shape without seams) is soaked with water, then heated in a steam bell and stretched on a wooden mould. © FT/Paloma Pöltinger
Afterwards the hat is shaped and the width of the head is determined by means of a band - this step is called plating. © FT/Paloma Pöltinger
This mould is then placed in a drying oven for half an hour or for up to three hours. © FT/Paloma Pöltinger
Step 4: (optional)
With some hats it is necessaey to smooth and brush them. © FT/Paloma Pöltinger
In the last step a seamstress adds the finishing touches to the design of the hat. © FT/Paloma Pöltinger
"Basically, my wish is that we continue to exist despite economical ups and downs," is Klaus Mühlbauer's wish for the future of his company.
By Paloma Pöltinger, Reporter FashionTouri
Translated by Maria Julia Bauer
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