Thursday, February 28, 2013
It is not that long ago that the South of France (and more specifically the area around Oloron Sainte Marie) counted many small beret manufacturers. These days, there are only two left: Blancq-Olibet and Laulhere.
Until 1993, there was a third: Beighau.
110 years before, Zechariah Beighau set up business as a wine merchant in Oloron St Marie, and in 1928 his son Xavier started the manufacturing of berets under the family name Beighau. The business expanded rapidly.
In 1945, son Maurice joins his father in the company (he took over the business in 1980). This is still the time that many Frenchmen (and many others) saw the beret as a standard part of their clothing and berets were manufactured in great numbers. In 1977 Beighau produces 450.000 berets (65% export!) and employs 40 people.The general decline in wearing hats and strong competition from Asian countries made Maurice, and his son Pierre decide to end the business in 1996. Most machinery went to Laulhere (including the ownership of the labels).
One wing of the factory, built in 1932
Another part of the old Beighau beret factory