Premium Handmade Umbrellas
Every year, a total of 40 million umbrellas are discarded in Korea. As the figure indicates, they are considered disposable items that are easily replaced. To change the traditional view of umbrellas, stylish and durable handmade umbrellas are being introduced in the market. Find out about these umbrellas as well as the philosophy behind them. This is a tailor shop in Seoul. Along with high-end tailor-made suits, premium, handmade umbrellas catch the eye. They are 20 times more expensive than mass-produced products but still highly sought-after with noteworthy repurchase rates.
(Ko, ) "I chose a Shuroop umbrella because of the classic design and beautiful colors, in contrast to mass-produced products. I used to think that umbrellas were only for temporary use, almost like a disposable item, but this brand changed my perception." These umbrellas are more like fashion items to complete a modern man’s wardrobe. And they were created by Jo Jang-hyun and Park Ri-ye ( and ) of Shuroop with the goal of changing people’s perceptions of umbrellas. Knowing that weaker umbrellas perpetuate the vicious circle of discarding and repurchasing, the designers decided to create well-made, durable products with a classic twist. The colors and designs perfectly complement the designers’ philosophy.
(Ko, ) "This is our crown ring, and the umbrella should be open this way. We use vegetable-tanned leather on this side because it will be touched by the customer, and all the stitches were hand-sewn." Just like any artisan product, it requires a complicated process to create these umbrellas. Each piece is the culmination of some 130 procedures and a number of skilled artisans each specializing in a certain skill. Therefore, the two designers have to coordinate with the artisans every time they receive a purchase order.
(Ko, ) "I visit each and every factory involved in the making of our umbrellas myself to ensure the quality of all the components used. It’s quite tiring and inconvenient, but I’m going to continue taking charge of it to maintain our quality." The first is to create the structure at an umbrella factory they’ve partnered with. The most important part of this process is to enhance the function and durability of the umbrella. The shaft and stretchers are made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, commonly used to produce fishing rods and golf clubs. It’s light, durable, insulative, and anti-rust, just perfect for umbrellas. Once the basic structure is completed, leather crafting begins. The artisan cuts and sews leather by hand to create a handle. Another place is just in charge of imprinting. Each umbrella features the name of the customer, laser-engraved on the wooden handle to make it truly one-of-a-kind.
(Ko, ) "This factory is in charge of engraving our customers’ names using lasers. I always inspect the engraving process to prevent any possible errors." The entire process takes 10 days, and then the designer applies varnish and polishes the engraving to add the ultimate final touch. Even after these thorough procedures, not every umbrella makes it to the customer. The designers believe that maintaining high standards is the only way for handmade products to keep their value. Indeed, they stay true to their ethos. The items we use say a lot about who we are. Now it’s changing consumer culture and the general perception about umbrellas while protecting the environment as well. Handmade products are labor-intensive and expensive compared to those made by machine. Yet, they are authentic and support a tradition of skilled work in this digital era. That’s exactly why we need to protect that legacy.
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