Honesty, fairness, quality, and generosity epitomise the Akubra brand. These values have been important since its foundation more than a century ago and are still an integral part of its operations today. Fifth-generation family member Stephen Keir has been leading the company as managing director since 2007. He has a hands-on approach to leadership and knows the business well, drawing on his almost three decades worth of experience.
“Akubra has been going since the early 1880s,” Stephen explains. “It started off in Tasmania, then moved to Sydney. Then we moved it up to Kempsey on the mid north coast of New South Wales in 1974. I have been working here since 1990.
Basically, my father started me off on the factory floor and I did probably 10 years there in the fur-cutting and hat-making parts of the business. Then he stepped me up to general manager while he was still managing director. When he retired, I took over his role.
“A lot of what we do now hasn’t actually changed for a long time, but I suppose technology has been the biggest change in this business. Being a manufacturer of a product like ours—and it’s such a small industry around the world—there is not actually a lot of chance for change. There is not a lot of innovation when it comes to machinery and everything to do with the hat industry.”
While its processes might not have changed a great deal, Akubra itself has, broadening its portfolio of products. It has expanded its range to keep up with the latest fashions, now boasting more than 100 different hat designs—including the straw, trilby, and fedora. It has also extended its reach into some wallets, bags, and belts, mainly on contract work.