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Berets, Anyone?

Kreissaege

One of the Regulars
Enjoying a warm, quiet evening in the garden with a "Blaumann" (German "Bleu de travail"), Tolosa Tupida Plato Grande, Campari Orange, a very good book (John Gimlette: Elephant Complex - Travels in Sri Lanka) and the dog for company.

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Daan

Vendor
Messages
865
Location
Wellington, Aotearoa
Enjoying a warm, quiet evening in the garden with a "Blaumann" (German "Bleu de travail"), Tolosa Tupida Plato Grande, Campari Orange, a very good book (John Gimlette: Elephant Complex - Travels in Sri Lanka) and the dog for company.

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Looks lovely and I envy you for the nice weather on another cold day in Wellington. Picture somehow made me think of a recent one of mine, enjoying a nice treat after climbing back up the hill from the hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on the Basque Coast, in 32oC. Too hot and sweaty to keep the beret on the head, even for me...
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Nico

One of the Regulars
Messages
241
Location
Australia
Visiting Boinas La Encartada

One of two museums dedicated to the beret is the La Encartada Museoa in Balmaseda in Bizkaia, Spain. The factory was established by Marcos Arena Bermejillo in 1892 and continued production until it's closure a century later, in 1992.
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In 2007 the factory re-opened as a museum, displaying a range of machines for processing wool originating in many parts of Europe.
Visiting La Encartada on a Friday morning, I found the door closed and, with little hope started calling and banging on the door. To cut a long story short, I was giving a personal tour by one of the workers at the place and thoroughly enjoyed seeing what I saw!
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La Encartada displays a traditional Basque factory, but it also shows how entrepreneurs were able to integrate machines from many European countries into a single manufacturing process.
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Nearby are several workers’ houses, some built at the same time as the factory and some from the early twentieth century, showing how community and factory were closely related; there was even a school on the factory grounds for the workers' children.
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Some of the most enjoyable displays were the beautifully kept vehicles that were used to transport the boxes with berets to the railway station in Balmaseda for further distribution in Spain and abroad.

Daan.
Informative posts. Keep them coming. :)
 

Daan

Vendor
Messages
865
Location
Wellington, Aotearoa
Since my announcement here (my Facebook-page and The Beret Project) that the price of Auloronesa and Aotearoa berets will rise drastically, I have seen an increase in sales of these berets. That's great from a retailer's perspective of course, but it also means the time-span to my next wholesale order (eg. raising prices) is getting shorter.
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As these berets, or foulards really, are already at the higher end of the cost spectrum, let me explain how the company worked and works and why the cost is higher than, say, a Tolosa Tupida, Castilla or Hispano Basque.
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Boneteria Auloronesa was set up by Denis Guédon, formerly the technical director of Laulhère with a life-long history of working with berets and at the time already close to his retirement. In those days (2000-2014) beret manufacturers were struggling hard for survival. Once big player Beighau had already gone down (like Spanish manufacturer La Encartada) and France's oldest factory Blancq-Olibet had their berets made in Spain, before closing down. M Guédon foresaw that Laulhère would go the same way (already they had part of their military production made in Spain) and he wanted to ensure that berets would continue to be made in France and even more so in the birthplace of berets, Béarn.
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M Guédon went back to the origins of the beret, the way they were made before the Industrial Revolution, developed his own knitting machine and other equipment and re-invented the 'real' beret. More important than making a serious income was his commitment to make berets without any concession to quality and comfort and pricing was at a level that was not sustainable for someone who needed to live of it.
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Five years on the company is well established and M Guédon feels he can "safely" retire. Boneteria Auloronesa is sold to two women (one of whom, Sara Goupie, the actual bonetaire) and at the end of this year (he insisted on a one-year long handover process!), he'll leave the business.
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So far for the background. When understanding how the berets are made and how many hours every beret is handled (literally), it is no wonder that the cost of these berets is high. Apart from the actual knitting, all work is handwork and, due to the nature of these berets, made in very small batches only.
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The price of the standard black berets Universel will remain close to the present price, but all berets that need "special treatment" (custom colours, linen lining, leatherette or leather headband fitted, casquettes, etc) will go up in price in accordance to the amount of extra work spent on these models. An example: the wholesale price for casquettes rose by 45%.
I hate it, yet at the same time, I completely understand and accept this.
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As for the prices at South Pacific Berets and Boneteria Aotearoa, I will work out a price that makes it sustainable to continue, digging into my margin and raising the sales price as little as possible. Whether Casquettes and special projects like the beret Cote survive, I am not sure of as yet.
 

Kreissaege

One of the Regulars
On the subject of the beret's pricing. I did a quick Google search with "baseball cap nike (adidas)" and found prices in the € 30,- range. For a piece of Polyester crap, cobbled together in a southeast asian sweatshop. So these berets are still cheap enough. ;)

(On a not-quite-related object ;), a while ago I read an article with 45 complainng, that about 90% of his MAGA-caps given to him for signing, are the cheap chinese knock-offs instead of the real ones made in the USA. There you go, price is everything, but a real beret is different:) )
 
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Daan

Vendor
Messages
865
Location
Wellington, Aotearoa
A Thai friend of mine sent me this article from the Bangkok Post, the story (and difficulties) of Kangol after their relocation from China to the US.
It was a brave and admirable move by Kangol owner Bollman Hat Co, but it shows once again how hard it is for present day beret makers (shoe makers, garment makers) to compete with cheap labour countries in Asia.
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Don Rongione, president and CEO of Bollman Hat Co, poses for a photograph with knitting machines used in the manufacturing of Kangol hats.

In my previous post I wrote about the situation for Boneteria Auloronesa (which will be very recognizable for Bollman), but also Boinas Elósegui struggles to make ends meet. A company that at one stage employed several hundred workers has now the grand number of 16 employees!
The company has seen massive changes in its business and management structure recently, which was needed and well overdue, but what I found most significant, was the attitude of the people working at the factory: a strong dedication to what they did and the product they make. Most employees at Boinas Elósegui have been employed by the company for more than 25 years, which tells you a lot.
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What gives (me) hope is that this (once slow moving, rather conservative) company is very much looking at the future now; actively promoting berets, reaching out to a younger generation, connecting history and present. This is done in the public domain, but also behind the scenes.
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Boinas Elósegui is at the forefront of incorporating environmental practices in its manufacturing processes. This is clear in the enormous reduction of pollutants in surface water, but also by embracing high tech methods of recycling. Eg. all woolen leftovers (threads, cutoffs, faulty berets, etc) are collected and send to a specialized factory that unravels these bits and turns the material into new merino wool threads.
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Here a picture of bales of "leftovers" ready for transport.

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images
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And for those who share my liking for Boinas Elósegui berets, I just put on a new weekly SPECIAL with discounts of 20% (or more) on various Super Lujo models!
 

foamy

A-List Customer
Messages
364
Location
Eastern Shore of Maryland
Since my announcement here (my Facebook-page and The Beret Project) that the price of Auloronesa and Aotearoa berets will rise drastically, I have seen an increase in sales of these berets. That's great from a retailer's perspective of course, but it also means the time-span to my next wholesale order (eg. raising prices) is getting shorter.
snip... Whether Casquettes and special projects like the beret Cote survive, I am not sure of as yet.
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I don't know about other folks, but the Auloronesa's are my absolute favorite. As long as the quality (and qualities) of the beret don't change, I'll be all right with things. Glad to know they are, and will still be, produced.

Just as a by-the-by, I accidentally left (one of) my Auloronesa's and phone at the bar one Sunday. Went back to get them and a group of women were trying it on and taking photos of themselves with it. I watched for a short time as it was entertaining. They were quite impressed with it. I don't believe any of them had handled a "real" beret before. That is, as opposed to the typical women's fashion beret, which, once you have owned or worn an Auloronesa (or any of the berets Daan stocks), "fashion" berets go right out the window.
 
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Nico

One of the Regulars
Messages
241
Location
Australia
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I don't know about other folks, but the Auloronesa's are my absolute favorite. As long as the quality (and qualities) of the beret don't change, I'll be all right with things. Glad to know they are, and will still be, produced.

Just as a by-the-by, I accidentally left (one of) my Auloronesa's and phone at the bar one Sunday. Went back to get them and a group of women were trying it on and taking photos of themselves with it. I watched for a short time as it was entertaining. They were quite impressed with it. I don't believe any of them had handled a "real" beret before. That is, as opposed to the typical women's fashion beret, which, once you have owned or worn an Auloronesa (or any of the berets Daan stocks), "fashion" berets go right out the window.

Got to admit I do like my Auloronesa's and Aotearoa's. I have several in different colours, all 10P . It amazes me how they shape and fit differently on my noggin (head). :D
 

Daan

Vendor
Messages
865
Location
Wellington, Aotearoa
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I don't know about other folks, but the Auloronesa's are my absolute favorite. As long as the quality (and qualities) of the beret don't change, I'll be all right with things. Glad to know they are, and will still be, produced.

Just as a by-the-by, I accidentally left (one of) my Auloronesa's and phone at the bar one Sunday. Went back to get them and a group of women were trying it on and taking photos of themselves with it. I watched for a short time as it was entertaining. They were quite impressed with it. I don't believe any of them had handled a "real" beret before. That is, as opposed to the typical women's fashion beret, which, once you have owned or worn an Auloronesa (or any of the berets Daan stocks), "fashion" berets go right out the window.

Beautiful story! Wish I could have seen it (you should have asked them for the photo's!).
No need to worry anything will change with the Auloronesa's and Aotearoa's. One of the conditions when M Guédon sold the business, was that the handover should take a full year, ensuring the new owner/operator knew all the ins and outs of his ways of making these berets.

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Above some pictures of the workshop, the making of the beret in various stages. Top left is the new owner Sara Goupy.
For those interested, I have a very small number of Bérets Foulard Cote – Nouveau left in stock; a model that is very unlikely to ever be remade. As for the bérets casquette Auloronesa, I don't think these will be restocked once the present stock has sold out. A real shame, but they would have to sell over $100 to make it viable to continue with this model.
 

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Daan

Vendor
Messages
865
Location
Wellington, Aotearoa
This week on SPECIAL, a selection of fantastic summer berets for those in the Northern Hemisphere, while some super-dooper warm berets for us in the Southern Hemisphere Winter!
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Vert-Amande and Vert-de-Gris
Lighter berets than the Le Béret Français ECO-Printemps don't exist. Eco-berets are made of recycled materials: wool, synthetics, cotton and silk; perfect summer and warm weather wear; super light and extremely soft to the touch (thanks to a high silk content). So light, you'd easily forget you're wearing a beret!
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The boina Castilla is a traditional Basque beret, but made in 100% light and breathable cotton. At 29.5cm diameter a standard sized beret, while the Argentinian boinas Tolosa Tupida Plato Grandes are the serious giants among Basque berets at 35cm diameter. Typical gaucho workwear that offers superb protection from the sun.
Meanwhile, for those in the Southern Hemisphere winter, there is absolutely no equivalent in protection from the cold than the 200 grams Tarte Chasseur Alpin - the beret developed for the French Mountain Troops that keeps the head warm in the coldest of weather and stays on well even when downhill skiing.
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A variety of models and colours all at a great discount for one week only (or as long as stock lasts)!
 

Babbo Philipe

A-List Customer
Messages
313
Location
San Pedro
well the cost of Auloronesa is not that bad considering , they are the best berets on the market, "Manufacture Berets" has only raised their cost 15.00 us dolllar, for black and 20.00 us dollar or 8 to 10 Euro --for colors and shipping is amazingly low
Sara Groupy has done a fine job of carrying on and is quick on the email replies, Denis,s dream still has its originality, i am lucky to have gotten my berets in time i do cherish them
 
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ErikFid

New in Town
Messages
36
Location
Big Apple
Just received my new berets. One Auloronesa 10p in navy blue from the factory, one Aotearoa 12p with abalone lining from Daan. Magnificent berets and thanks to all who guided me to these beauties. Shame the lining of the Limited Edition doesn't show on the outside;).
Well worth their money, even when prices rise. Daan charged only $15 for shipping, but had to pay a hefty 22 euro (or $24.50) for the one coming from France (shorter distance, smaller parcel and lighter weight).
good stuff though.
 

Daan

Vendor
Messages
865
Location
Wellington, Aotearoa
One of the things I wanted to do during my last visit to Béarn and the Basque Country was finding out more on the background of many beret labels. I counted all the labels in my own collection the other day (462, and growing!), but of many I have no idea who made/used them.
Take the famous Vrai Basque label for example; until recently used by both Laulhère and Blancq-Olibet in a variety of designs. However, I have 14 'Vrai Basque' labels in my collection that were not from either company and found still more online. Some samples below, all on a nice bayadère lining:
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Going through catalogues at the university library, asking the people of the various remaining factories and at the beret museums in Nay and Balmaseda, I didn't get any further - some information just seems to be lost in history...
Other labels (names) remained principally the same over the decades, but had only subtle changes made in colour or background. Compare the Hispano Basque of the 1950's with the present day label, for example:
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When going through the archives of the University of Bayonne's library, I came across some (very nice) labels that I had never seen before. Curiously, they carry no information in the label; no manufacturer's name, nor "made in France", "impermeable", etc.:
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It is fascinating just how many different designs there are for beret labels and it shows just how commonly the beret was worn, not
that long ago (and how many millions of berets must have been produced over the years to justify all these different labels).
So many are small pieces of art in their own right; would make for a nice coffee-table book really...
 
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