Welcome to Oloron-Sainte-Marie, Haut-Béarn, homeland of the real Basque beret. This page does not show the activities of the BEATEX company, the last factory still producing berets in France.The Pierre Laulhère factory produced all kind of hats: wool-made bertes, but also hats and scarfs, gloves and angora.The factory suffered from the textile crisis and has to close several buildings and reduce its activities. More things to explore for us...
Textiles were produced following almost artisanal techniques. The well-established processes were starting from undyed yarn, then knitting, looping and felting, dyeing, shaping, combing, shearing, decatizing and trimming (see the photo galleries explaining the process with images).
This is part of the cultural heritage of Basque land. The beret factory and tools are irreplaceable. Merci pour les images -- assai tristes mais important. I will be returning to Mauleon, Ney and Oloron Ste Marie. I hope there are beret makers still creating.
I grew up in the area in the early 60's and vividly remember various beret factories in Oloron. It is sad to see them disappear, one by one and I think that your captivating selection of pictures reflects both fascination and sadness. Fascination because it is/was part of a hidden gem in foothills of the Pyrenees; sadness because the chronic economic difficulties have led to most of my school mates to scatter across the country. I do return to the area about once a year, and every time I make it a point to visit the Friday market and buy some local "stuff", like espadrilles, beret, etc.
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