The famous hat worn by actor Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies was developed at Vicente Cury hat factory in Brazil. Established by a Lebanese immigrant, Cury has been developing hats for men and women since 1920. But no other model has been as successful as the one used in the Hollywood production.
To date, the Indiana Jones hat is the most sold by the Brazilian factory. Production totals over 60,000 units a year.
"The design, the material, the color, it was all defined here," stated factory director Paulo Cury Zakia. He explains that in the beginning of the 1980s, a factory and distributor of hats located in Texas, which had already been Cury’s client for over 10 years, was one of the companies that sponsored "Raiders of the Lost Ark", the first film of the series.
"We were visited by two of the company representatives, by the president and by the person responsible for approval of the model," he said.
"When the film was released, in 1981, the hat became a global fad. At that time, we sold over one million units," stated Zakia. Success only increased in the following years.
In 1984, the second film in the series was launched, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", and in 1989 came "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". If the hat is a sales success to date, the year of 2008 promises, as the fourth film of the classic Indiana Jones series should be released.
Apart from international production, the Cury hats are also successful in national television series, mainly on the Globo television channel. Soap operas like O Rei do Gado, Bangue-Bangue, América and the current series Amazônia are mentioned by Zakia.
"On Globo, whenever a hat appears, except for straw hats, they are ours," guarantees the businessman.
With 87 years of history, the factory has already been through many phases, ups and downs. Although the beginning was hard, there was significant demand. In the 20s, 30s and 40s, hats were an essential part of men’s, women’s and children’s wardrobes.
"The decade of 1940 was the peak. The factory had as many as 800 employees and monthly production of 70,000 hats," explained the director.
At the end of the 1950s, however, there was a change in habits and hats stopped being worn so much. Of the 15 producers in the country, only two or three remained – and Cury is the largest one. The survival strategy was acquisition of competitors. The most recognized brand in the country, Ramenzoni, is currently part of the Cury portfolio.
"This way, we increased our participation in a market that was getting smaller and smaller. We maintained a minimum scale to continue living," he explained.
In the 1980s, came the great turn. Apart from growth powered by the Indiana Jones hat, the fad of rodeos and country fashion created a new market for the hats produced by the company. Each year there are over 2,800 rodeos in Brazil.
"One of the reasons for the company to have survived to date is diversity. All kinds of hats are made, female, male, fur, wool, small, large," pointed out Zakia.
The Cury history began in 1919 when Lebanese immigrant Vicente Cury established a workshop to repair hats for his children, Miguel Vicente Cury and Maria Cury, in the city of Mogi Mirim, in the interior of the state of southeastern Brazilian state of São Paulo. One year later, they moved to the city of Campinas and established a small family-owned hat factory.
Initial production focussed on felt hat bodies (semi finished) for male hats for social and country use. The raw material for the production was rabbit fur, imported from Europe.
In 1924, the brothers Salim Zakia and José Elias Zakia became partners. As time went by, the industry grew, increasing the built area and purchasing modern machinery for hat production, brought from Europe and the United States.
In 1975, the company made a great leap, acquiring the Ramenzoni machinery and brands, and starting producing lamb and rabbit fur hats in both brands: Cury and Ramenzoni.
Today, the Vicente Cury & Cia factory has 200 employees responsible for monthly production of 35,000 hats. This figure includes hats that are exported to various countries like the United States, Bolivia, Uruguay and Mexico, among others.
Currently, Cury produces rabbit felt hats, sheep felt hats, a mixture of rabbit and sheep, baseball caps, caps, top hats and Panama hats. The rabbit fur is imported, whereas the sheep felt is partly imported and partly domestic.
In 2004, aiming at adding value to the product line, Cury purchased a garment manufacturer and established brand Cury Jeans, making trousers, jackets and shirts.
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