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The magicians behind El Taller De Brujo make caps from second-hand materials

Hats made from antique lace, beads, grandpa's suits and tracksuit bottoms

El Taller De Brujo's hats are anything but normal. They're unique, handmade pieces conjured from sources like vintage kimonos, lace and old tracksuit bottoms. Hendry Perdon and Edu Martens let us in on what inspires their unusual process. 

Hendry Perdon and Edu Martens aren't new to the fashion world, but they are in the process of launching a new line. The 55-year-old designers are producing hats under the name El Taller De Brujo, or the Magician's Workshop, from materials they’ve picked up all over the place. Everywhere you look in their own workshop you see fabric remnants, rolls of leather and patterns. The pair makes hats – and bags and clothes and theatre costumes – in their cosy studio in Amsterdam's buzzing Spaarndammerbuurt. Pillows emblazoned with characteristic Amsterdamse School house numbers are scattered in the window – for the tourists. "All kinds of people walk by and stop to stare at our work. The hats pull in all sorts of customers. For instance, we recently got an e-mail from a football coach who was interested in our work. But creatives, dancers and actors love our caps, too!" 

Caps from El Taller De Brujo, picture: Rutger Vos © Rutger Vos
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Caps from El Taller De Brujo, picture: Rutger Vos © Rutger Vos

You've both spent decades in fashion, what have you done in all that time?

Perdon: "We met each other at the Rietveld Academy, where we both graduated in 1987 as fashion designers. After that, we spent around 10 years working separately for all kinds of different fashion brands. Mixed in there we also worked for some theatre productions, made and still make costumes, from couture gowns to fat suits to, most recently, a mouse costume."

Martens: "In the '90s, we had our own brand together called Pehron where we produced sweaters and t-shirts. It was quite popular, but we quit after a while because we were a bit fashion-ed out. That was partly because our sweaters were being copied. In the meantime, we were busy with the theatre costumes. That broadened our horizons, because it challenged us to use other methods and use the material we had to work with. But blood is thicker than water, so fashion pulled us back in, in the end." 

"It's not just snip, snip and you're done"

What's the idea behind the hats?

Perdon: "Just like our costumes, we make the hats from materials that we pick up all over the place. Right now, for example, I'm making some pieces out of one of my grandpa's old suits. You approach used materials differently. You don't always have metres of fabric to work with, so you have to place the pattern in a way that fits and that will let you get a hat out of it. It's not just snip, snip and you're done. It's a challenge, but that’s what makes the end result so interesting. We actually really like the hats we make and we've gotten really good response from people that stop by, for instance the actors we dress for theatre productions and people that just walk into the studio." 

Caps from El Taller De Brujo, picture: Rutger Vos © Rutger Vos
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Caps from El Taller De Brujo, picture: Rutger Vos © Rutger Vos

What kinds of materials are you using for you're caps now?

Martens: "Things like vintage obis, kimono sashes, basketball bags, tracksuit bottoms and antique lace. There are three types of hats in three price categories: sports hats for 160 euro, couture hats for around 250 euro and haute couture hats that go for around 500 euro. Not cheap, maybe, but a tremendous amount of work goes into them. They're all handmade and unique. For example, on the haute couture pieces, we sew in the antique beads individually. And the hats are an expression of our artistry, the organic work that we make under the moniker of El Taller Del Perdón."

Perdon: "That means the workshop of forgiveness, but without the accent it's also my last name." 

How did you come up with the name El Taller De Brujo?

Perdon: "For the theatre productions, we work under the name El Taller, which is Spanish for 'the workshop'. If you say it fast enough, it turns into 'atelier'. El Taller De Brujo is the brand name for our caps and clothes, and it means the magician's workshop. We came up with the name because we're making new things out of existing pieces, just like magicians." 

"We have the urge to create"
El Taller de brujo sportswear © Rutger Vos
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El Taller de brujo sportswear © Rutger Vos

What else are you making right now, in addition to hats and costumes?

Martens: "After our Pehron brand, we've always worked on clothes in one way or another. We do that in the same way we make the caps, so we've made t-shirts and trousers from other, existing pieces. We've made jogging pants from sweaters, for example, or we've taken the logo from a t-shirt and repurposed it into a new image. We completely disassemble pieces and make something new from the parts. We come up with solutions to challenges we set for ourselves, like making square arm holes in a shirt. They're all one-offs, we never take them into production."

Perdon: "We clean all the materials first, then soak them and, when necessary, very precisely disassemble them. Not everyone realises how much work that is, but we really love it, it's almost meditative. We have the urge to create. Look here, for example, we've made a jacket from an embroidery that we turned inside out. Or this jacket, which we made from an old camping tent we found on the street. You could set yourself up with tent pegs if you wanted to." 

"It's a different kind of fashion that we're making, we don't want to follow fashion trends"

So unique, sometimes even comical pieces, but not always wearable, it seems like?

Perdon: "For us, it's about seeking out new shapes, structures and materials. The process is very important. We're not very commercial or business oriented. We sell these pieces to friends and acquaintances or they're used for theatrical productions. But we do want people to get to know our work. The caps are very accessible and quite hip, as well. And they're unique; no two are alike. We also want to add handwritten tags to each that tell you where the materials come from. For example, this is an old Kappa sweatshirt and this is a piece of antique lace that we've completely filled in with embroidery. We spend days working on that, so it's truly haute couture." 

El Taller cashmere scarf  © Rutger Vos
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El Taller cashmere scarf © Rutger Vos

I notice that you also have some scarves and bags in the studio. What are they made of?

Perdon: "The scarves are made from parts of sweaters. Sometimes they're second-hand materials but they might also be amazingly high-quality cashmere sweater remnants that we've bought. All the scarves are different, but they often feature graphic patterns. We also make bags using materials that we've found all over the place, things like old raincoats. Look, it still has the pocket with the sealed zippers. We think that's so great!" 

What do you want to achieve with your brand?

Perdon: "We want to make hats, bags and clothes with love and care, then sell them. We don't have any sales outlets yet. We'd like them, but it has to be the right fit! It's a different kind of fashion; we don't want to follow fashion trends. And our approach isn't necessarily to be sustainable by using second-hand materials. We just both love fabric that has that certain something about it, material that has a life and a story, that has that little something extra."

Martens: "Our work is always sustainable anyway, but that's normal for us. We never wanted anything to do with child labour and terrible working conditions. Our brand, Pehron, was produced in the Netherlands. And the hats we make now are one-of-a-kind pieces that we hand make ourselves. Sometimes they may look brand new, but they were made from items that already existed. That kind of process makes the pieces special." 

El Taller De Brujo hats are available in the studio and the webshop at www.eltalleramsterdam.nl

El Taller converted raincoat © Rutger Vos
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El Taller converted raincoat © Rutger Vos
El Taller sportbag © Rutger Vos
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El Taller sportbag © Rutger Vos
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