Hatter Zapf has been making hats in Werfen since 1893. “You can only survive on the market for so long with quality,” explains Robert Bartolot, who has been running the family business for two years. “We don’t want to sell a mass-produced product and we have never entered the cheap segment. .”
customers from all over the world
About 10,000 hats are produced each year, which are sold in two of their stores and shipped to wholesalers. “The Zapf brand is known worldwide and enjoys an excellent reputation. A large part of the goods goes to Germany, but we also ship to the USA and Asia. We even have customers in Burma, Lebanon and Australia,” reports Bartolot. . which estimates the share of export at 80%.
The blanks for the headgear, the so-called hat trunks, come from a Portuguese company. The processing is done by hand. “Our hats are much more durable than industrially produced goods because they are not machine-printed,” says Bartolot.
Pairs made of animal hair and wool felt are heated in steam and then molded into a wooden or metal hat block. “A total of 15 to 20 working steps are necessary. It takes three days for a hat to be finished because it dries after each working step,” explains milliner Barbara Priglinger. “We make hats from a variety of materials and in many colors and designs. The range consists of a total of around 500 different models,” adds her colleague Elfi Schwarzenberger.
The market has changed significantly over the past decades. “Everyone wore a hat, the milliners had hundreds of employees. Today, with ten employees, we are the largest manufacturer in Austria.” Instead of a few big ones, there are now many small customers. “This is nothing negative, because it is easier to overcome if a customer is lost,” says Bartolot.
During the corona pandemic, the company’s sales fell sharply. However, at the moment, the order situation is very good, according to Bartolot: “We are already heading back towards the pre-crisis level. After the end of the blockades, it was noticed that there was a great need, especially among the clubs.”
Hats are not only worn by the elderly. “We have an increasing number of young people in the stores. Fashionable girls and boys who want to attract attention when they go out also shop here,” explains the managing director.
Interest in the hat profession is also growing. Bartolot points out that he has no problem finding employees: “We have an apprentice and will have another intern in the fall. Designers who absolutely want to work for us keep contacting us.”