“Wow, dude, I have never seen a top hat as beautiful as that one… it’s perfect. What is it?”
Whenever you hear somebody ask that question at one of the cooler venues or festivals around Berlin these days you can be sure that the answer is CAPT’N CROP – formerly known as ‘Crop Cosecha’.
We arrive at Capt’n Crops’ store on a sunny late summer’s afternoon in September. The interior of the store is completely made out of wood, hand-made and reminiscent of a sail boat.
I remember buying my very own Crop Cosecha top hat on a Christmas market in Berlin’s katerholzig, and I recall somebody telling me these hats were handcrafted by a Chilean who lives in Berlin.
One of the first things I find out upon arrival is that the man behind the brand is not Chilean at all but Bavarian. What strange blossoms hearsay can have, I think to myself as we sit down in front of the store’s sun-flooded window.
Captn Crop never learnt the art of hat-making in a traditional way.
29-year-old Moritz Wolfgruber is the man behind the brand, born in the very German town of Bad Reichenhall, and he designs and crafts these unique pieces in his small ark that is located in Berlin’s district of Neukölln. He is a friendly and pleasant host, and comes across quite as the artist I had expected. His attitude is humble, his voice calm. I notice he doesn’t seem to be a friend of many words.
Moritz never learned the artisanry of hat making in the traditional way. Having rejected to follow the traditional handcraft of hat making his art is autodidactic – everything he knows he taught himself over years of crafting the most unique hats you can find around the capital of cool.
Each of his pieces tells a story as it is assembled by unique vintage cloth or fabric, may it be a pair of old jeans, your great-grandmother’s carpet, the neighbors’ WWII living room curtains, or simply a seat cover ripped from an old chair Moritz might have found abandoned in the streets of Berlin.
A Capt’n Crop top hat in action in his most natural environment.
(-photo courtesy of Isabela Vermehren-)
The cloth is hot-glued in a layered structure instead of sewed which gives the hats a unique look and feel, and the characteristic sturdiness that allows a Captn’ Crop to last a human lifetime – and even longer. These hats have a reputation of being indestructible, and every time your best mate drunkenly sits on it just makes it look even cooler. Hats made of stories to tell stories – crafted to still make your grandchildren happy.
Check some impressions from our visit below, and witness the conversation that I managed to squeeze out of the Capt’n about his artisanry and the course of events that led to his life as a hat maker.
“Forget algorithmic perfection. Embrace mistakes and imperfections, they’re a sign of humanity in a world of perfect machines.”
WT: I understand you recently changed your brand’s name. That’s not something one does every day, especially when having such a cool reputation as CROP COSECHA. Why the new name?
Captn Crop: Frankly, I got tired of explaining to people what CROP COSECHA means.
WT: That worked well! What does it mean?
CC: It’s a common inscription on the coffee bags from South America. ‘Cosecha’ is Spanish for ‘crop’ so it says ‘crop’ in two languages.
Another reason was that I had the idea of turning my store into a boat. And out of a mood I carved ‘Capt’n Crop’ under the steering wheel.
WT: When did you start the hat biz? And what was your educational background?
CC: I started in 2007. And I did not have any artisanal education. I graduated from school, came to Berlin for civilian service, then my daughter was born. Started studying biology, lasted a month, then quit. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to bring something to life with my own hands. Something in which I could live my creativity to the max.
WT: Was there any key moment that sparked the artisanry? Or was it merely the urge to craft things with your hands?
CC: An urge to create, yes. This has always been a passion for me. I once found an old felt hat from my grandfather. I kinda liked wearing it. It might have been the trigger to acquire my consciousness and taste for hats. So I started checking out hats. But I realized the hats you see in stores… I didn’t like them.
So I got myself a book about the art of hat making. But it only showed me what I did NOT want to do. One Sunday morning I had some time, and decided to create a hat out of some cloth and wire I had at home. That was fun. So I made the next one. And the next one. Progress came very quickly.
Another one of my passions had been plants. Plants have an incredible effect on a room.”
WT: Do you feel a strong connection to nature?
CC: Yes, I like it. Before I came to Berlin, I was outdoors a lot.
WT: What or who inspires you?
CC: I’m particularly fascinated by people and cultures. Funny enough, I’m creatively stimulated by the vagabonds and beggars popping by the store every now and then. I’m very interested in their unique style dictated by their bizarre circumstances rather than transient fashion trends. Beauty out of necessity!
WT: I understand you are upcycling used materials for your items.
CC: Yes. I use jute bags a lot. They are used for cocoa, peanuts, fertilizer… Really old material. Fifty, sixty year old material with patches and prints on ’em. Old curtains. And these, for example, were canvas chairs from Eastern Germany. I recently bought 30 of them on an giant flea market in Chemnitz. That’s the kind of material that’s interesting for me to work with.
WT: How long do you work on a piece?
CC: Depends on the piece. 5 to 6 hours for the more complex ones. 3-4 hours for others.
WT: Your pieces are unique, every one if them tells a story. Are you inspired by stories? What’s the last book you’ve read that you can recommend?
CC: The Jungle Book. I read it the other month to my daughter and she loved it. There is lots of flowers and birds in the illustrations, themes that are always present in my hats.
WT: Which job will you have in your next life?
CC: Brain surgeon.
WT: What’s the number one annoying thing about Berlin these days?
CC: The Kebab prices are climbing above 3 euros almost everywhere.
WT: Your hats are worn on the coolest parties one can find on this planet these days. What’s your personal definition of ‘cool’?
CC: Cool is the absence of ‘coolness’, trying too hard doesn’t help at all! The less you care about being cool the more you can actually be.
WT: If you could give ONE advice to young artisans – what would that be?
CC: Handmade, handmade, handmade. Forget algorithmic perfection. Embrace mistakes and imperfections, they’re a sign of humanity in a world of perfect machines. Today I fucked up a brim. While trying to repair the damage I have actually invented a new way of making brims. It’s a prodigious new way of making brims! Embrace failures, don’t cry on yourself, life is good!
WT: Thanks Moritz. You rock. Keep up the great work!
If you happen to be in Berlin make sure you visit Captn Crop’s sailboat store on Reuterstraße 52 in 12047 Berlin (Neukölln), or get your very personal Captn Crop item from his virtual ark instead.
Captn Crop’s Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri from 3pm to 7pm
Saturdays from 2pm to 6pm