By Jenna Jay
Florencia Gomez Gerbi is both stylish and eco-conscious, attributes she hopes to pass along to the La Jolla community through her new collection of authentic Panama hats.
The Argentinean entrepreneur is CEO and founder of Greenpacha, a local business with a focus on sustainability that sells balsa surfboards and, as of this spring, hats.
Lots of them.
In a small studio on La Jolla Boulevard, Gerbi and a core team of business-savvy young women, work amid an assortment of chapeaus, from classic Panama hats to head-turning wide-brim styles in various colors and patterns. Dozens of hats await new noggins to adorn, and will infiltrate boutiques in La Jolla with the launch of Greenpacha’s spring line of wholesale Panama hats.
Gerbi’s Panama hats are handmade in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, in the hat-making community of Sigsig. The hats are 100 percent natural, and Greenpacha gives back 2 percent of all sales to the Ecuadorian community. The retail price per hat is about $70.
“We want to be part of the green movement in the world,” Gerbi said. “Our proposal is: OK, you’re wearing a hat and you’re not only wearing something stylish, but you’re also helping communities. The message is it’s so easy to help, and at the same time you’re having fun, you’re protected from the sun and you’re looking good.”
Greenpacha literally means “green times,” with “pacha” coming from the Aymara (Inca) word meaning time. Gerbi’s efforts to bring green times to La Jolla comes one hat at a time, with no limitations on who can get involved in the hat-toting craze.
“It’s not going to be divided by gender or age but by spirit,” Gerbi said of her clientele. “If you’re into the green movement or paying attention to what you’re buying as a consumer, probably you will buy this hat. We welcome people to be part of this.”
South American countries have seen the Panama hat gain traction lately for its sun-shielding practicality and the trend is picking up Stateside, as well. “The straw hat is becoming huge,” Gerbi said.
Whether it’s a wide-brim hat used for a cover-up at the beach or a short-brim hat accessorizing an outfit for nighttime style, Greenpacha is adapting to the trends in head-toppers, boasting styles for men, women and children alike. Plaid and colored fedoras adorn Greenpacha shelves alongside the classic Panama hat, and Gerbi has plans for further personalization.
“Our idea in the near future is to launch an accessories line,” she said. “Our plan is to bring seeds and feathers and a lot of natural elements that can be put as accessories on hats.”
Sustainability no longer must be a sacrifice to fashion, and Gerbi and the Greenpacha team is testament to the fact.
Greenpacha’s current focus is on hats, but the company’s sustainability efforts expand to surfing, one of Gerbi’s passions. Greenpacha sells balsa surfboards, which are lightweight wooden boards made from balsa wood found in Ecuador. For every balsa board Gerbi sells, she is committed to planting two balsa trees in the Amazon.
“We are spiritual, but we also live in a material world, and we enjoy it and we celebrate it every day,” Gerbi said — with a hat for every occasion, of course.
Want to know more?
• Greenpacha hats at Sigi’s Boutique,
7888 Girard Ave. (858) 454-7244
• Greenpacha surfboards at Surf Diva,
2160 Avenida de la Playa, (858) 454-8505
• Greenpacha.com (858) 551-0171