the best period
Spring and Summer
When the sunshine returns, a real must in spring is to buy a straw hat made in Caussade, the hat capital of Tarn-et-Garonne, in Occitania. Since the golden age of hatmaking, in the 19th century, when men and women would never go outdoors without this vital accessory, the finest models symbolising French-style elegance have been made in Caussade.
Recommandé par Lauriane
When you get to Caussade, it's best to leave your car in the car park at Carré des Chapeliers ("Hatmakers' Square"). The tone is set. This is where the day begins, with a return to the beginnings of hatmaking history! During the Epopée Chapelière ("Hatmaking Adventure"), visitors are immersed in the town's incredible history. The Epopée Chapelière is far removed from a traditional museum. This is a staged experience introducing you to the essence of a flourishing trade. I love the ending with a video of Maurice Chevalier singing for his straw boater (which he had made to measure here), with a very vintage melody and images.
The Epopée Chapelière is accessible to all with audio-guides in French, English and Spanish. The visit lasts 1 hour. Admission: €4, €1 for ages to 6-12 and free for under 6s. Find out more.
If you have the chance to wear a real straw boater from Caussade, you will definitely feel like trying on some more. Finding the hat that fits is irresistible. You have two options: either head for Willy’s Paris, a real institution brimming with treasures, or pay a visit to Hats Block Laforest, with the chance to get to know a rare profession. But best of all is to do both!
La Table d’Alice: a great restaurant in Caussade, to enjoy lunch on the lovely shaded terrace with seasonal cuisine. Close to the train station and a 5-minute walk from the Carré des Chapeliers.
Didier Laforest was destined to work with wood. He is a hat-block maker. This is one of the few World Heritage professions listed by UNESCO. Didier shapes pieces of elm-tree wood to make hat blocks. Watching him at work is a real privilege, in his workshop-boutique in a sublime town house. His wife, Aliona, makes flowers from fabric to decorate the hats. They both welcome visitors to a world filled with hat blocks and colours, like a scene from an opera. Didier is always ready to recount anecdotes about the history of hat blocks, where creativity seems limitless.
Didier Laforest chose to make his hat blocks in Caussade because each year he would come to the Estivales du Chapeau, a traditional festival in the town, celebrating the craftsmanship of hatmaking! From 11 to 15 July 2019 Caussade will again be hosting milliners and craftspeople from all over the world, with fashion parades and activities for everyone.
Much more than a simple hatmaker, Willy’s Paris is the guardian of the temple for the art of hatmaking in Caussade. Isabelle Rey is at the helm of a family firm that is continuing to create iconic straw hats, such as the boater, or more extravagant hats, like some of the models made for French haute couture. You can find all sorts of hats in the shop, from a simple summer hat to ceremonial hats, with something for all budgets. There is a guaranteed feeling of wonder at the sight of these creations. Women, men and children can never resist the urge to try on a hat.
Did you know ?
The first Caussade straw hat was invented by Pétronille Cantecor, a farmer who wanted to protect her head from the sun in the fields. This is how she invented the Paillole!