Cuenca-made hats make the world stage at Cannes film festival

May 23, 2015

Panama hats are showing up all over at this year’s Cannes film festival and many of them were made in Cuenca.

Actor Sean Connery in a Cuenca-made Panama hat.

Actor Sean Connery in a Cuenca-made Panama hat.

Cuenca’s Ortega Brothers, the world’s largest exporter of Panama hats, or sobreros de paja toquilla, as they are called in Ecuador, says it shipped several to Cannes, including three specially made for what they say are “big stars.” Pro Ecuador, the government marketing agency, also handed out Panamas to those attending the festival.

Among the stars seen wearing Panama hats were Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Watts, John Turturro and Vincent Cassel.

Over the years, Ortega has made hats for dozens of movie stars, including Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Peter Faulk, Brad Pitt, Jeff Goldblum, and Anthony Hopkins.

Ortega reported that sales of Panama hats were up 25% in 2014 over 2013 and says it expects sales to be even stronger in 2015.

Alicia Ortega, president of Ortega, said that Panama hats are coming into vogue especially in Europe. “There is a strong fashion trend toward the hats that we hope to see continue,” she says. Alicia is part of the third generation of Ortegas to run the company that started operations almost 100 years ago. She says the company exports Panama hats to 28 countries.

France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Panama, Mexico, and the U.S. are the top export destinations.