Rainwear Reinvented

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Japan-based Hiyoshiya specializes in traditional, hand-crafted umbrellas, or wagasa, in Japanese. The company is the only one in the country that produces both traditional, large-size ceremonial nodate gasa umbrellas, used by tea ceremony masters in outdoor tea ceremonies, as well as smaller, more delicate janome gasa umbrellas, which are used by the maiko and geiko on rainy days.

Each umbrella features intricate hand-painted patterns with bright bursts of pigment accenting the centuries-old design. Quite possibly one of the most high-end umbrella makers around, Swaine Adeney Brigg has been crafting exquisite rain gear for Londonites (and his royal highness the Prince of Wales) since 1750. Brigg umbrellas can be quite expensive, with an ostrich-handle silk shoot combination totaling up to £800.

And they make other notable goods, too, including the original brimmed safari hat made famous by Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones, as well as the original attaché case for James Bond in From Russia with Love. After using antique parasols in her wedding, Jodell Egbert became obsessed with vintage parasols and pagoda-shaped umbrellas, most popular with women of the 1800s who were looking to escape the sun. Now, Egbert has two websites and a retail storefront dedicated to parasols, as well as her own line, Bella Umbrella.

For more than a century, Fox Umbrellas has been making stylish, sophisticated rain gear by hand. The shop, which opened in 1868, originally crafted its umbrellas using a whalebone frame and a silk shoot, but have since moved to the more practical combination of a wooden shaft with nylon around steel ribbing. Harrods and Ralph Lauren are among some of the stockists that carry these fine umbrellas, and notable clients include England’s own royal family.

Hiyoshiya umbrellas, ¥7000-252000,www.wagasa.com
Swaine Adney Brigg, £99-1175,www.swaineadeney.co.uk

Meredith Fletcher is a Texas native currently living in New York and working as a freelance writer.

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