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Hats, sustainable entrepreneurship & adventure: an interview with Emanuel von Mojak.

Mojak makes beautiful hats, handmade in the Allgäu, in the south of Germany. Some time ago we became aware of this small, fine brand. We talked to the founder Emanuel about how he came up with the idea, what self-employment means to him and how to build a strong brand. One of the hats also accompanied us on our trip to Norway and up to the Lofoten Islands and we can confirm: Mojak hats are excellent travel buddies!

Emanuel von Mojak
Emanuel von Mojak

How did you come to hats of all things? And above all: Are you a hat wearer yourself?

I actually get asked that question quite often. Honestly, it was never planned to make hats. At the time I had a small streetwear label with friends, but I was annoyed by the short-livedness of trends, discount battles and the competitive pressure in the fashion industry. The hat then came to me somehow through beautiful detours and moments. The story is a bit longer, but I'll just tell the short version here. The whole thing started in 2016, I was on the way to the south of France with a load of rescue boards and had an old felt hat from my grandfather in the luggage. On the way I met Jules Ahoy, who was also wearing a hat at that moment. When I then drove the 1200 km back to Lake Constance in pouring rain, the idea came to me that a hat is simply a great product. Timeless, durable and handcrafted. An anti-product, as I call it. So the retrospective birth occurred over a bottle of red wine surrounded by pine trees. A few months later I went back to France with the first hat samples and we took the first photos for the launch of our online store.

I like to wear hats myself, especially when I'm on the road. In everyday life sometimes more, sometimes less. Since I'm surrounded by hats all day, I actually wear a cap sometimes. But you keep that for sure for you ;)?

Mojak Hut auf dem Weg an's Meer
Mojak Hut auf dem Weg an's Meer

Where does the name Mojak come from?

Mojak is a word with original roots. More specifically, it comes from the Sioux language. The Sioux were one of the largest indigenous tribes in the 1800s in North and South America. Mojak translates colloquially to "never sit still." Actually in the context of toddlers always jumping around. The meaning is a great fit for us, and in the context of travel, it means, "The world is too beautiful to sit still - discover it." And one more little analogy. The teepee provided the First Nations with shelter from heat in the summer and from cold and storms in the winter. These are exactly the qualities our handmade hats fulfill, making it the best travel buddy for your next adventure.

Handgefertigt im Allgäu - Mojak Hüte
Handgefertigt im Allgäu - Mojak Hüte

Where and how are Mojak hats produced? Did you have special criteria for the production?

All hats from the 100% Handmade Collection are lovingly handmade traditionally in a small family business in the Allgäu. Here, wooden molds are used to make each model individually, so each hat is truly unique. The hats from the Classic-Line are pre-pressed in Italy and then further processed in the Allgäu. We source one model from Ecuador, as there is also a long hat tradition here and there is still a lot of hat craftsmanship. Above all, it was important to us that we work together in partnership and that we use great materials.

Our hat wool comes from sheep from Uruguay, Argentina and Australia. Again and again we are asked if our wool is "mulesing-free". What is mulesing anyway? To prevent fly infestation, skin is removed from the sheep in the tail area in Australia, the problem is that this is usually done without anesthetic and without aftercare to heal the wound. Therefore, in many countries this method is prohibited or climatically unnecessary.

Therefore, our wool from Australia (since risk country) is subject to the "Responsible Wool Standard" (RWS) with which, by the way, Patagonia also works. This is secured by a SCOPE certificate from our hat manufacturer.

Unfortunately, wool processing companies that can produce the special hat blanks have not existed in Germany for decades, as the hat market has become a negligible part of the fashion industry. If you look at old photos from the beginning of the 20th century, the hat was the fashion accessory of all, by the way, you were considered poorly dressed at the time if you didn't have a hat on. With the demise of the hat as a mass product (for the wider society), all the companies that can produce the raw material for the hat - the hat blank - from the raw material wool have also disappeared. This, by the way, is where our vision comes in.

If you want to know exactly what steps are behind a Mojak hat, you can find even more info on our site. By the way, the Allgäu has a very long hat tradition. Until 100 years ago, about 3000 people worked here in the "hat industry". Today there are only a few handfuls.

Herstellung der Mojak Hüte
Herstellung der Mojak Hüte

What surprised you or what you didn't expect when you started your own business or founded Mojak?

I was already many years part-time self-employed. That's why I've learned many things step by step or paid the price for one or the other mistake. But probably what surprised me the most was that you simply don't have a plan of how things really work in practice when you start your own business. But you learn something new every day and you can look forward to new challenges every day. There's almost never a day when you don't have to deal with some kind of problem, but challenges are part and parcel of an adventure.

Mojak Hüte unterwegs in Portugal
Mojak Hüte unterwegs in Portugal

What do you enjoy most about Mojak and your independent work?

Clearly, it's the great people I've met over the years and the freedom to manage my own time. And of course it is a super nice feeling to meet people with our hats on the road or just to see pictures of great adventures with our hats.

Starting a business is not always easy. What do you think are the most important qualities or factors to stick with it anyway?

I think you need your own "why" and a personal vision that you would like to achieve at some point. A project that you are passionate about gives you much more than just a financial incentive. Especially in the beginning, when you can't read the success directly from your bank balance. The exchange among other self-employed is also super valuable, here you can get useful tips.

You are not only the founder of Mojak, but you also created the start-up workshop 'Gründen & Meer' and teach at the University of Applied Sciences on the topic of brand building. What do you think are the most important characteristics that make a successful brand?

A brand is somehow a very abstract concept, but you can think of a good brand as a person, with its own personality, values and a good sense of the issues that concern the target group. My favorite phrase on this is "Nobody needs your product, the customer has to want it". For all those who want to start their own business (part-time) and who are interested in the topic of founding & branding, we have created a great brand-founder workshop. In October our next workshop starts in Portugal, directly at the surf spot. You can find more information at:

Gründen & Meer Workshops
Gründen & Meer Workshops

If you could share one thing or piece of advice with other founders or those who might want to be, what would it be?

At the time, I crafted a beautiful quote for our startup workshop. "Founding is like surfing, you get washed through a lot until it becomes really fun." So keep at it, get back up and keep paddling. Don't give up right away if after the first few months you don't have the big bucks in your wallet right away. And as described above, it helps if you have a dream, a personal vision for which you burn.

And for all those who are unsure whether the idea will work, starting your own business part-time is a great way to build up your project and independence step by step without financial pressure. That's how it worked for me and I would do it again and again.

Auch das Surfen darf nicht zu kurz kommen
Auch das Surfen darf nicht zu kurz kommen

What other projects do you have planned for the future and where would you like to see Mojak?

In fact, I would love to organize an event someday, where all Mojaks come together. I don't know if that's ever possible, but I think it's a great idea, because we have such mega-loving customers and Mojaks.

The goal would be for Udo Lindenberg and Jan Delay to wear a Mojak hat. Fun! Our vision is to build our own value chain. With our own supply chain. From wool to hat. The only problem is that the whole hat craft is an almost extinct profession and many production facilities of the last century have disappeared. This is exactly where our vision comes in.

Mojak conveys a great feeling of adventure, freedom and closeness to nature. What was your last adventure or nature experience that stuck in your mind?

Thanks for the compliment, I'm really happy to hear it comes across that way.

Phew, that's a good question. The really last little adventure was while hiking/climbing in the Swiss mountains - just a few weeks ago. Halfway up the climb we heard a pretty loud rockfall and we didn't know where it was coming from, it was a pretty queasy feeling as we then had to climb over rocks for about 45 minutes up to the pass. Here it became clear once again how small and unimportant you are. But of course everything went well, the rockfall was really super small and not close to the climb. But it definitely felt like adventure and adrenaline.

In this sense "Keep care of mother nature and mother nature keeps care of you".

Thank you very much for the nice interview.

If you're curious now, you should definitely check out Mojak. There is also a portion of adventure, nature and wanderlust on Mojak's account on Instagram.

We thank you for the exciting conversation and look forward to many more trips and adventures with our Mojak hat!

Mojak Hut auf Bild mit Sieve Fins
Mojak x Sieve Fins


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