Ercegovac hats is a designer’s brand that boasts a whole line of fashion items: both women’s and men’s hats, berets pillbox hats, caps, fascinantes, scarfs, bijouterie and a wide array of wearing headwear including all hair decorations which are made for modern-day dynamic personalities. Our refined and must-have fashion items are designed to be worn on a daily basis but also in a special occasion, thus coloring every individual’s appearance.

Discover Ercegovac hats collections and become a part of our 90 year long tradition.

Memories

The Ercegovac hats fashion store is situated in the center of Belgrade, just across the Palace on Terazije. It was founded by Vojislav Ercegovac who, after the war, moved to Belgrade and started working as travelling salesman at the shop of Milivoj Popov. Mr. Popov had already been in the hat manufacturing and sales business, working out of a shop in no. 5 Kolarceva street. Milena Ercegovac, Vojislav’s sister, who was married to Milivoj Popov was working at that same store as well.

On August 1st 1927, Vojislav opened his own women’s hats store in Kneza Milosa street. The store was named Women’s Hats Main Warehouse and Store Ercegovac. One of the store’s employees was Jelena Trbojevic, the then soon to be wife of Vojislav.

Jelena had graduated from high school in Osjek, where she later studied fashion design and crafts at the esteemed store Klingen. She arrived in Belgrade in 1927 and immediately started designing fashion items for the Ercegovac fashion store. A year later, due to an increase in demand and consequently production of Jelena’s and Vojislav’s hats, they opened another store in no. 4 Sremska street, which was working over the course of the following two years. During those years, they even opened another store in Kralja Milana street, in which only children’s hats could be bought.

ERCEGOVAC - LOVE AND FASHION

Frau Kligen, besides being know as a rather strict lady, was also regarded as one of the most skilled masters in fashion design east of Vienna. She was head of a young girls school in Tvrdja old town of Osijek, Croatia. Upon finishing her design courses, Frau Klingen’s students would often work in other parts of Europe or North America because they were considered as exceptionally skilled.

Jelena Trbojevic (Jela) was one of those students. She arrived in Belgrade in 1927 with the sole desire to buy a ticket and move to North America. While residing in Belgrade she received a letter telling that her younger sister Milica was engaged and soon to be married to Mr. Radovan Mirkovic, who was a cavalry officer.

Since, at that time cavalry officers were notorious for their seductive ways, a worried older sister decided to postpone her travels until Milica gets married. Therefore, she immediately needed to find work and a place to stay in Belgrade.

The Ercegovac Family’s brother-in-law, Mr. Milivoj Popov, owned a women’s hats factory and had two sons who weren’t interested in that line of work. They both studied in renowned European schools and led rather avant-guard-like lifestyles. Namely, after WWII they didn’t even return to Yugoslavia. Upon the war’s ending, Dusko had become an excusite spy with code-name Tricycle and Marko was a doctor. That is why Mr. Milivoj Popov employed and taight his brother-in-law, Vojislav Ercegovac who was a rather diligent fellow.  As all other young ambitious and talented folk, Voja quickly kindled a desire for independence in a line of work that he had already been succesfull in. In 1926 he deiced to carve his own piece in the women’s hat industry, Therefore, Voja needed to quickly find a shop, a stylist and employees.

In this moment, as in many others touched by fortune, two people met at the intersection of destiny in 1927, in Belgrade, striving for the same skies, seeking the same future. Little could they know that great love would flourish from tireless work hours and that their craft would be sustained over the next 90 years by their daughter-in-law and their grandkinds. Their shop hasn’t moved since 1927.

However for the plot to cullminate, it needed another love story. One of those that brought discomfort to life. Namely, another fashion deisgner, already married with an operating store, started to neglect her husband and her work for a forbiden love affair. The destiny of this fashion designer remains unknown to us, but what we are familiar with is that her husband, clutterd with troubles, decided to sell the store. 1st of August 1927, Mr. Vojislav Ercegovac and Mss. Jelena Ercegovac took over that exact store in the street of Milos the Great, above the London building and present their first collection. On the first morning Mss. sold five five felt winter hat’s in the midts of  summer. Witnessing this the former owner started to reconsider his decision to sell the store. However, the deal was in fact made, as the two gentlmen were men of their words, master craftsmen.

Five months later, Voja was visited by his uncle and aunt. Voja presented his workshop and the store. To everyone’s surprise he introduced Mss. Jela to his family, as his future wife. This rather charming proposal, impossible to decline, had put to motion a brand that spans trough four generations. Dragoslav later married Jelisaveta, and through their daughter Jelena, they passed the entusiasm to their granddaughter Isidora, the same way the craft secret’s were passed to Jelena, by her grandmother Jela and grandfather Vojislav. That fortunate series of events enabled Ercegovac hat’s successors to prolong the tradition and keep enriching it with love for 90 years.

That is how a Belgrade’s fashion brand Ercegovac hat’s was born, and today after almost a century it is held in high regard troughtout the Balkans, Europe and the world.

From 1932 onwards, Jelena and Vojislav Ercegovac were proud owners of a new at the Crown Prince’s plaza (now Terazije no. 40). On the store’s second story there was a workshop that boasted 40 employees and a couple of students. At the time, the Ercegovac Company also employed two traveling salesmen and one accountant.

Besides these stores in Belgrade, Vojislav and Jelena owned a store in Skopje, where they would attend fashion fairs and present their fashion items.

The materials for the fashion items were supplied from Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Hungary. One travelling salesman would frequently visit then current fashion fairs and was following the latest trends and newest materials, while another one would showcase new hats collections throughout the Yugoslavian Kingdom. He would also rent two rooms in hotels he’d stay in. He would reside in one, and the other one would be utilized as a ‘pop-up’ store of sorts, where he would showcase the latest Ercegovac hats collections to the local fashion salesmen.

One curious anecdote about the Ercegovac family business has been re-told for years and still remains within the circles of the family today. Namely, in the beginning of WWII, the straw that was used to produce the hats was sent in four big cases from Japan. Three of these four cases were seized by the border authorities while one was destroyed as collateral damage from the bombing on April 6th 1941. Even with the aggravating circumstances during WWII, the shop was working non-stop without interruption. At the time, it was extremely hard to supply and import materials, therefore during the war, old material reserves were frequently used.

During the first few years after the war, Vojislav was only left with the ground floor of the store at Terazije, while all of his other stores both in Belgrade in Skopje were seized and taken. At the time, even with the relentless efforts to reinstate the travelling salesmen connections, the Ercegovac employees and owners fell short of realization due to the newly formed perception, which rendered the hats as bourgeois. Therefore, the amount of hats ordered decreased significantly and the family’s efforts were seemed to have been in vain.

Vojislav and Jelena’s son, Dragoslav learned the fashion craft from his parents but he never actually took it up. The profession that he chose was medicine and he became a renowned neurologist. His wife Jelisaveta was an architect. She too learned the fashion craft from the Ercegovac family, however, unlike Dragoslav, she sometimes worked in the family business. During the 1950s and 1960s the family store was selling hats mainly in Belgrade and surrounding areas.

Vojislav Ercegovac died in 1965; therefore the store’s day-to-day operations were controlled by Jelena. The tradition had been saved, hats were becoming trendy again and the family started to obtain materials from Italy, Germany, Austria and France again.

Jelena worked in the store until 1986. She passed away two years later.

In the meantime, in 1983, her granddaughter Jelena had finished textile school in Belgrade and had obtained a fashion craft diploma. After her grandmother Jelena died, Jelena took over the store operations, hat production and design. By doing so she had breathed new life into the business while also studying architecture. In 1990, Jelena had graduated from the university in Belgrade and started pursuing a career in architecture. By doing so she spent more time and energy focusing on her career than on the family business.

During the awful crisis in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the Ercegovac store, under Jelena’s supervision, continued to produce high-quality women’s hats made from high-grade materials. One of the biggest exporting business deals at the time was completed with « Goma », a company that ordered a hindered hats for the Russian women’s Olympic team that was participating in the 1994 Olympic games in Lillehammer. Besides this, in those rather dark times (specifically1993 and 1994), Jelena presented her products at fashion week events in the Zepter Gallery and the Bit Club in Belgrade’s Hyatt Hotel as well as at a number of different fashion shows in SKC and Bitef Theatre.

Today Vojislav and Jelena’s great-granddaughter, and Jelena’s daughter, Isidora Todorovic, studies architecture as well and in the myriad of commercial production fashion lines, maintains the family tradition and keeps the family’s unique style alive in the same store at Terazije 40. She claims that her vision is to help create a new generation of young adults that will regard hats as standard fashion items and to expand her client list to new young women and girls that will wear uniquely designed hats, hand-made from the best materials available.

As architects, grandmother Jelisaveta, daughter Jelena and grandaughter Isidora recognized and appreciated the quality of the store’s original interior and exterior design from 1932 as well as the beauty and authenticity of the art deco typography of the writings on the store. The three of them managed to maintain the store’s original look, implementing only minor changes along the way. Therefore, from a visual perspective, as well as a historical one, the store is a true Belgrade rarity and gem.