The district of Montappone

Montappone is the most important European district for the production of hats. The Core Business has its origins in the ancient craft working of the straw hat.

The peasant farmers of the hills around Fermo, on which wheat was grown, began to braid the harvested straw to transform it into hats. This activity then evolved over the years into production on a vast scale. Precisely at the end of the 19th century Montappone became the first Italian centre to industrialise its manufacturing.

The Hat District grew up around the end of the nineteen-sixties, even though the activity of the district is centuries-old: there is in fact evidence of it already in 1300. It is situated between the new Province of Fermo and the Province of Macerata.

The municipalities of the Fermo area involved in hat production are Montappone, Massa Fermana, Monte Vidon Corrado and Falerone, to which must be added three in the Province of Macerata: Mogliano, Loro Piceno and Sant’Angelo in Pontano. However the centre of the District is represented by the municipalities of Montappone and Massa Fermana.

All seven Municipalities have a total population of approximately 15,500 inhabitants and all together they produce about 80% of hats produced in Italy.

If we want to restrict the production area further we can say that in the municipalities of Montappone and Massa Fermana (approximately 3000 inhabitants) they produce more than 70% of the entire production of the Hat District and 60% of Italian production. While in the Municipalities of Montappone and Massa Fermana the entire population have concentrated their activity on hats, the other towns have in part diversified the types of production into other sectors.

In the district there are a number of companies that carry out some stages of the processing and that produce accessories, components and specialised machinery. Other firms, instead, are specialised in the services of printing, advice and assistance, transport and promotion.

Montappone is considered the European cradle of hat production. Initially it grew up as a highly specialised single-sector hub but, in a short time, it expanded the production range also to all the other different types of product. Over time to the production associated with straw was added also that of fabric, felt and woven hats as well as other fashion accessories such as gloves and scarves. The product in fact has changed a lot: above all there are now many types. To simple hats used for work were added products destined for sport, leisure and high fashion for all age bands.

The district produces 70% of the product destined for the domestic market but also exports its articles to other countries. The markets are ainly France, Japan and the United States of America. Promising new European areas such as Russia and the other Eastern European countries are also interesting.

Over the last few years the Hat District has had to face up to production coming from Eastern Europe and China. This meeting, which occurred in the nineteen-seventies, was immediately transformed into an excellent collaboration. Everything evolved thanks also to a far-sighted synergy, so even though it is true that straw (to which the start of the history of hats in Montappone was due) is now imported from abroad, the town has however kept its supremacy in the finished product. They were in fact the first to begin commercial relationships with the Far East.

It should be noted that the District is in any case small and is based on flexible structures that can adapt their production also for small quantities of high quality.

On the contrary the Asian companies, as they are very large, cannot manage to adapt production to small quantities, because the marginal costs would be so high that production would become anti-economical.

This constitutes one of the greatest strong points which have enabled all the companies operating in the sector to stand up to the Chinese competition.

The management of companies is also at a family level; there are no real and proper managers; all company policies derive from the experience that has been acquired over decades. All decisions are usually taken at the family level.

Thanks to a higher basic culture, greater sources of knowledge made available by the communications media, knowledge of languages, international travel, to both purchase products and to sell them, the new generations are beginning to acquire experience of management and to adopt marketing policies.