Colorful hats in wide-ranging forms, made from a thousand different materials. That is how the Santelli firm greets its guests: with tables set with seasonal samples recalling Fellini-esque dream-visions.
Santelli Francesca’s creations immediately grab attention on account of their aura of joyous energy. A feeling which soon takes on a tinge of nostalgic charm when one hears the firm’s history. Founded in 1954 by Donatello Santelli, the firm began its activity exclusively with the production of cloches, and braids for making straw hats. Historically, the famous 13-strand braid was fashioned by hand by expert “trecciaiole” (braiders), women from the so-called “Straw Bay”, a vast territory which included the towns around Florence.
Their extraordinary care in working straw is brought to mind by the painting of Grandma Santelli which still holds sway over her descendants. An important work, it was painted by her son, Giuseppe Santelli (1880-1956), a pupil of Giovanni Fattori. From the early 1900s, techniques for making hats became industrialized, and although this led to the gradual disappearance of the “trecciaiole”, on the other hand it allowed the Santelli firm to increase and diversify production.
Today the firm is run by Giovanni, Francesca and Chiara Santelli; it is specialized in the production of various fashion accessories, including, obviously, the classic Florentine straw hats, as well as other types of headgear, cotton scarves and woven gloves, with constant attention paid to raw materials, details and workmanship.
Even such an absolute icon of elegance as Jacqueline Kennedy appreciated the exclusivity of Santelli hats, as witnessed by her correspondence with the company’s founder, in perfect First Lady style.