A man, a plan, a hat
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A man, a plan, a hat

Ecua-Andino's bold new Panama designs

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
A man, a plan, a hat
Ecua–Andino CEO Alejandro Lecaro. (Photo courtesy of Central Department Store)

Alejandro Lecaro draws on various inspirations to reinvent the classic Panama hat. Seeing a vendor wearing a straw hat at a floating market in Thailand had him sketching new models for Ecua-Andino's latest collection.

"The woman reminded me of my mother. That made me even more committed to creating a collection dedicated to Thailand," said Lecaro, who co-founded Ecua-Andino in the 1980s.

Last year, the Ecuadorian company expanded its business to Thailand, with Central Department Store as exclusive retailer of the original Panama hats.

Lecaro is both the CEO and designer, whose affinity with Thailand is clearly expressed in the "Thai Breeze" collection.

"It's not for the Thai market. I don't like the word 'market'. It's an homage to Thailand, its culture and friendly people,'' he explained at the launch held recently at Siwilai City Club, Central Embassy.

Above  A Panama hat with a long ribbon for a chic and casual style.

Since the 17th century, Ecuadorian artisans have been hand-crafting the iconic hat, woven from straw obtained from the palmlike Toquilla plant native to the country's coastal areas. It's a process that can take between one week and six months, depending on the delicateness of the straw and the weave.

It became widely known as the Panama hat when US president Theodore Roosevelt wore one while visiting the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906. In 2012, Unesco declared Panama hat weaving in Ecuador an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Right  New models from the Thai Breeze collection.

"The Panama hat represents an epitome of Ecuadorian craftsmanship," said Lecaro. "My job is to make it a fashionable and an indispensable accessory for people, who want to sport a chic and casual style."

The Thai Breeze collection features designs with floral motifs, playful brims and a long ribbon.

"The various models differ in shapes and colours for every occasion," he said. "It's not a seasonal hat for only summer or when you go on vacation. You can wear a Panama hat every day, to express your individuality."

New models from the Thai Breeze collection.

Constantly releasing new collections and expanding the brand's global presence have kept Ecua-Andino in a leading position.

"Not only in artisanal handicraft, we are in the fashion business," he added. "The fashion industry is like a tunnel. You can only go forward through offering attractive designs in order to reach the light at the end."

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