Gema Galdón Zaragoza, founder of the Hat Gallery
What is the Hat Gallery?
The Hat Gallery is a kind of Russian doll: a world within a world within a world. I started out designing and selling hats, but now I run a whole program of activities, including creative process classes for professionals, pop-ups featuring brands and artisans that I feel deserve to be known, and mentoring for design and fashion students. We are currently preparing courses to train entrepreneurs and to retrain those who need to adapt to new needs and create stable, lasting, businesses that are quite unique. Another fun activity that we are planning is a series of talks for children entitled "Entrepreneurship for Children (and their parents)" in which we will seek to inspire adults through the ingenuity and courage of their children.
When did you start your business?
I opened Les Catherinettes in 2013. With my head buzzing with ideas and the dexterity of my two hands, my initial investment was a handful of needles, some colorful thread, a few pairs of scissors, a table, and one flexo lamp. Little by little the business grew into a multi-brand space (20 m2 workshop and 20m2 shop). In 2018, following the sale of the premises, I opened Gema Galdón Hat Gallery. Here, in its 200 m2, I can give free rein to all my follies and continue to grow. I have always been an entrepreneur and was alone In founding the business.
I was my very first customer, and soon after, friends and designers started to give me commissions. That was back in 2010. I combined this with my work as an outdoor designer and high school teacher until 2017, when I decided (against everyone's advice!) to work full-time as a hat designer. I celebrate my decision every day.
What do you like most about your job?
My work is my hobby. I like everything about it and enjoy every moment as if it were my last. I consider myself an eager student and never stop learning. As an entrepreneur I get up every morning avid for any challenge that will keep me from falling into a routine.
And what do you like least?
Bureaucracy and technology. I find it difficult to understand things I am not interested in and prefer to outsource them so I don't make mistakes. I take particular care in selecting my external staff, who are specialists in what they do and have professional knowledge of art and fashion. It is very important for them to understand me, so that we can plan how to reach a wider audience that shares our philosophy, ensure that every small step we take is profitable, and consolidate what we have achieved.
What do you think makes your company special?
We conceive the hats more as unique works of art than garments: they are exhibited in a space where there are always cultural activities going on and are individually lit as if they were in a gallery. I don't consider myself a hat maker; hats are a way of channeling my designs, the displays around them, the type of message I wish to transmit... I could have dedicated myself to gardens or car ashtrays, and the approach would be little different.
What are its main challenges?
To make passers-by stop in front of the window so they come in to learn more and talk about the space to all their friends and acquaintances. I don't have a sign on my door and I don't have a website and yet my name is spreading and my community is growing. I don't have an e-commerce page nor do I sell online. I send hats around the world by ordinary mail and I try to provide a unique shopping experience, even if I don't know the buyer: a few words written on a card is always a cause of pleasure and may be the beginning of a lasting friendship.
Where is your company located? Do you know why this location was chosen?
We started in Riera de Sant Miquel, 17 and now we are in Carrer Santa Teresa, 3. I can't imagine a better location. I am surrounded by luxury shops and artisans' studios in Gracia, and I consider the gallery to be both.
What do you like best about this neighborhood?
Since I am from Alicante, I like its orange trees; in spring we celebrate our own type of Sakura with the orange blossom. It's an almost completely pedestrian street without any noise from cars, and we are in the center, close to all manner of transport links, hotels, offices, etc. Our customers are local people, foreigners here on business, and tourists.
How important is Barcelona for your company?
Barcelona has an important textile and design heritage, which is what makes it unique and explains why my work is valued here.
Which cities would you compare Barcelona with?
Barcelona is incomparable; otherwise I wouldn't be here any longer... I came as a tourist and decided to stay the day I was due to take the train back. I was fascinated by its shops and this was why I joined the sector after studying it in my bachelor's and master's degrees. I am a born observer and record all my observations in a notebook when doing field work.
Which other cities should Barcelona learn from?
It is important to travel in order to broaden one's knowledge, but also to appreciate the city in which one is lucky enough to live. I love Barcelona as it has so much what I need to be happy: climate, culture, sea, gastronomy, design... if my family lived here, it would be perfect.
Which good practices in other cities should Barcelona adopt?
I would like Barcelona to be more sustainable. It should improve its approach to tourism as there is plenty that needs to be changed in that respect.
What do you ask of the Barcelona of the future?
It should be inclusive without losing its identity, recover its entrepreneurial character, reward innovative thinking, and there should be a commitment to designers of all kinds.