This past November, WAG profiled Jose Molina, marketing vice president of Monticristi, a New Jersey-based company designing toquilla straw hats. Each hat is handmade, crafted with care and woven in centuries-old Ecuadorian tradition. CEO Pablo Vinueza, executive director Emilio Gomez, and Molina take great pride in knowing that they are upholding this tradition at a time in which hats are making a comeback.
It’s been four years since they started the business, with no signs of it slowing down. WAG caught up with the team at a New York Fashion Week event in February at the Angel Orensanz Foundation as Monticristi partnered with the Netherlands-based designer, House of Byfield. It wasn’t Monticristi’s first walk down the runway at Fashion Week. The milliner has done four shows in the last year. But this time, there was a major problem.
“The hats aren’t here yet,” Molina said with a nervous smile as the clock ticked down to the 7 p.m. deadline. Rather than let the pressure get to him, Molina told WAG how Monticristi’s relationships have grown.
“At first, we went to designers saying we wanted to partner up,” he said. “But now, designers come to us.”
Monticristi keeps an eye to the future by putting a contemporary twist on its designs. In partnering with different designers, the company has learned how to mold its styles to fit the vision of others. Though the hats are constructed by hand in Ecuador, they are steamed in water to allow for different shapes and sizes. Then they come to New Jersey, where Molina and the team put the finishing touches on them.
“It’s definitely a group effort,” he said. If the team doesn’t agree on a design, the hat doesn’t see the light of day. With different partnerships always in the works, maintaining high standards is even more crucial. Monticristi consistently strives to ensure that each hat is styled beautifully to its exact specifications.
Not surprisingly, the quality craftsmanship, and cutting-edge styles of these hats are catching the eye of designers and customers worldwide. And Molina was proud to tell us that Monticristi hats will also be featured on runways in Milan and Paris this spring.
“We’d like to get out to the Hamptons next,” he said, adding that they’d also like to get more involved in sporting events like the US Open, where the product might appeal to a larger number of customers. At this point, expansion is the ultimate goal for Monticristi, and the more its hats are seen, the more orders pour in from a wider range of customers.
It was well after 7 p.m. when the hats finally arrived, but even with the loud music, and chatter from show-goers, team Monticristi’s sigh of relief was practically audible. The show began an hour late, but each member of the team was right in the mix, ready with phones angled toward the runway, snapping pictures of each model wearing one of the hats. The excitement was tangible, and when the show ended to applause, Molina smiled and said, “It never gets old.”