Umbrellas were originally used as protection from the sun dating back to 11th century China, Egypt and India. However, since famed Parisian designer Coco Chanel made tanning all the rage in the 1930's, both women and men have been carrying these fashionable and practical accessories to protect themselves from the rain. April showers are just around the corner so it's time to spring forward and be elegantly prepared for the downpour!
The rich and stylish are not only protecting their designer clothes and freshly coiffed hair from raindrops, they're also considering these contraptions as a staple accessory to their wardrobes. Although some people are once again wisely using umbrellas as parasols for sun shade, in rainy coastal areas they are an absolute necessity for everyone's closet. The selection today is magnificent, ranging from luxurious classic designs to handy travel sized models.
England, and particularly London is known for it's rainy weather and is often regarded as a city of umbrellas. Jonas Hanway (1712-1786) was an English tradesman who was famous for making umbrellas an essential part of every gentleman's attire. Yet Berlin, Germany is known as the birthplace of the first telescoping pocket umbrella in the 1920's. This is considered a huge step in making the umbrella as convenient as it was stylish. The handles alone are as crucial to the construction of these designs as the canopy, often artistically designed in gold-plate, sterling silver, leather, bone or precious woods. They sometimes have integrated flashlights, compasses or even 'seats' for sporting events!
Vintage Chanel umbrellas can sell for as much as $1,500, and for some members of the "Billionaires Club" founded by Formula One mogul Flavio Briatore, a custom made umbrella will cost a hefty $50,000. His "Billionaire Couture" London boutique will craft this incredibly decadent and eccentric umbrella entirely from crocodile skin. Although many criticize Briatore for his ostentatious line, he defends the rich's right to luxury attracting such style icons as David Beckham and Sean "Diddy" Combs.
Anyone willing to spend indulgently can treat themselves to these extravagant umbrellas. They may be costly, but they're crafted to not only endure the ravages of torrential rain but to keep up with rapidly changing fashion trends. In a world filled with designer knock-offs, nothing can replace the satisfaction of owning the real thing.
10 "Pasotti" Italian Umbrella with Swarovski Crystals: $360
The Giacomini family started their Italian company Passoti in 1956 and pride themselves on their hand crafted designs and high quality materials. They wisely teamed up with Swarovski for this glamourous ladies two toned pink umbrella with double layered canopy, decorated with hand sewn crystals and a silver crystal button and loop closure. Every style of Passoti umbrella is produced in limited quantities to ensure the exclusivity of their brand. This umbrella measures 36" wide and 34" long and the handmade hook handle has a pearly sheen to complete this ultra feminine look.
9 "Il Marchesato" Pure Silk and Swarovski Crystal Umbrella: $385
This elegant umbrella is hand made in Italy by Il Marchesato for the world renowned Schirm Oertel store in Germany that carries only the best umbrellas from around the world. Swarovski once again joined forces with Italian master craftsmanship to create this beautiful work of art. Their products possess fashionable details like 24k gilded handles, pure silk for the canopy and for this model, 192 Swarovski crystals applied by hand. On the practical side, they use fiberglass ribs for most of their umbrellas and they are all fitted with scotch-guard, double-resin coated fabrics to protect their owners from the worst rainstorms. At 37" long and 39" wide this is both a durable and dressy option for any fashionista!
8 "Maglia Francesco" Blackwatch Sports Seat Umbrella: $450
This clever design in a classic blackwatch pattern is not just for protection from the rain - it's also a convenient seat for a sporting event! Queen Elizabeth has actually been known to use this umbrella while attending Equestrian events in England. Maglia Franscesco is a fifth generation company based in Milan who have been making some of the finest umbrellas in the world since 1854. Each model requires no less than 70 steps of manufacturing and the family are considered to be the last true umbrella artisans. The fabric is a sturdy poly-cotton and the shaft is solid wood making it a durable choice for heavy rainfall. The nickel plated brass seat folds out with a spiked tip, and at 35" long and 24" wide it is large enough to protect you from the elements yet can easily fit into any golf bag.
7 Hermes "Pluie de H" Folding Umbrella: $485
The French high fashion house Hermes was originally established in early 1837 Paris as a harness and saddle making manufacturer. This would explain their eventual move to leather clothing and accessories in the 1920's. They are now famous throughout the world for their incredible leather handbags as well as gorgeous scarfs, ties, perfume and countless prestigious products purchased by the elite clientele. Rainy nights in Paris would certainly call for the meticulously crafted Hermes umbrella to shield designer clothes from relentless raindrops. This orange model is made from 100% polyester jacquard canvas with a tinted beech wood handle. It measures 16" long when closed, 25" long and 39" wide when opened which will keep it's lucky owner under cover in fabulous style.
6 "Maglia Francesco" Cherry Wood One Piece Umbrella: $495
Maglia Franscesco has created another masterpiece with this unique umbrella handcrafted in their famous Milan workshop. They're known for their spectacular craftsmanship and old world sensibilities and this umbrella is no exception. The shaft is constructed from a solid single piece of cherry wood with a polished bark handle. The length of this umbrella is 37 inches and the brown pin stripe canopy has a handsome matching sleeve. This model also has a horn tip end and nickel plated brass hardware to make it as elegant as it is strong enough to keep a gentleman dry and dapper.
5 "Alexander McQueen" Skull Handle Umbrella: $565
The wonderfully eccentric late English designer Alexander McQueen had a reputation for tailoring exquisite, original and sometimes controversial creations. The new creative director Sarah Burton has continued his legacy and this skull handled umbrella is very typical of his humor and love of whimsy in the world of high fashion. It is startlingly practical with water repellent fabric and snap tab carrying case, measuring 17" overall and of course capped with the conversation-piece skull handle in gold or silver toned hardware. This umbrella was made in Italy but is a perfect example of McQueen's swinging London influences early in his career - high quality products that are designed for the elite but also meant to be fun.
4 "Mario Talarico" Horn Eagle Umbrella: $650
Mario Talarico is a third generation company founded in Naples, Italy in the 19th century and is famous for hand crafting exceptionally designed umbrellas for gentlemen. This artisan workshop located in the Spanish district of Naples is a legend. Their umbrellas are individually crafted and each are completely unique. This masterfully made full size umbrella has a majestic eagle head handle made of bone and coupled with a black canopy cuts a fine figure for a man of style.
3 Swaine Adeney Brigg Men's "Whangee": $760
London's Swaine Adeney Brigg is a celebrated British manufacturer of luxury goods including umbrellas. Founded in 1750, they are a favourite of those with discriminating taste and it is said that no self respecting gentleman would carry any thing else than a Brigg umbrella!
Thomas Brigg designs are considered to be respectable with a touch of eccentricity which makes them so unique. "Whangee" comes from the root of a type of Bamboo which is naturally 'designed' from soil erosion and exposure to the elements. It is then sent to the Brigg workshop where it is bleached, boiled and straightened eventually being bent into the handles of these very original umbrellas. The canopy of this model can be nylon or silk, available in canopy size 25" or 27". The overall length of the 25" from the curve of the handle to the tip is 35.5" and the 27" is 38". The collar can also be engraved with initials for an extra charge to further personalize this splendid umbrella.
2 "Burberry" Nubuck Ostrick Handle Walking Umbrella: $850
Burberry is the well known British Luxury Brand known for it's iconic tartan inspired checked scarves, classic trench coats and of course umbrellas to conquer the typically rainy weather synonymous with England. The company was founded in 1856 and is considered to be the epitome of British high style. This elegant full size umbrella is crafted in a shower proof polyester and cotton twill. The unique nubuck ostrich skin handle has distinctive stitch detailing and the press-stud tab closure and push button to open the umbrella are also made from ostrich skin.
This particular model is uncharacteristically plain in design as it's missing the iconic tartan motif associated with this label. However this deep 'college blue' is sophisticated and understated - perfect for a conservative gentleman who prefers quiet quality over ostentatious display.
1 "Swaine Adeney Brigg" Men's Malacca Flask Umbrella: $1,270
This decadent and rather eccentric Brigg umbrella features a Malacca cane two piece handle with a fitted screw-in drinking flask! This model has been created with the flair and attention to detail people expect from this iconic British brand. The canopy is available in black hand woven silk or nylon and it's available in both 25" or 27" in rib size measuring 35.5" and 38" in length respectively. The rib frame is of very high tensile strength to battle the wind and rain. The shaft is made of Tulip wood and there is a silver plated Royal Warrant collar which of course can be personalized with initials upon request. This is a fine example this famous company's subtle luxury and so typical of the understated yet opulent English style.