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Handicraft Sector Overview

Ecuador's rich heritage is evidenced by the wealth of the unique handicrafts made by its people. Today millions of artisans produce quality handicrafts in Ecuador; their products include hand-woven clothing, carpets, Tagua figurines, toquilla straw hats ("Panama hats"), furniture, decorative ceramics, and leather goods.

The principal markets for Ecuadorian handicrafts are Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Toquilla Straw Hats ("Panama hats"):
There is no hat more famous than the Panama hat. Although technological advances have led to the development of ultra-light fibers, it remains the best hat to cover your noggin in hot, sunny climates. While its name suggests otherwise, this celebrated hat has never been made in Panama; in fact, Ecuador has produced the Toquilla straw hat for over a century. The misnomer arose when travelers bought the hats from Panamanian commercial houses that had imported the Toquilla hats from Ecuador at the turn of the 20th century. The travelers unwittingly referred to them as "Panama hats."

Tagua, also referred to as "ivory nut", comes from the inner lining of a large nut produced by a species of palm tree. Ivory nuts were first exported to Germany in the 1860s, where they were used to make buttons. Today Tagua is used in the manufacture of brooches, buttons, chess pieces, walking stick and umbrella handles, pendants, and a myriad of trinkets. Ecuador exports Tagua to Italy, which remains its principal market because of its dominance in the fashion industry, and, to a lesser extent, to Germany, Japan, Korea, Spain, and the United States. Ecuador is the world's only exporter of Tagua.

Ecuador manufactures a variety of high quality leather products, including bridles, jackets, saddles, and shoes. Due to low production costs and high quality, the export of Ecuadorian leather products, handmade and manufactured, has boomed in recent years.


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