Global warming may finally be elevating the humble umbrella to the status it has long deserved. April was once singled out as the lone month of interminable downpours, an annual pastime to be handled via expedient, short-term solutions – which is to say cheap, shop-bought brollies that rarely survive into May.
Yet our ever-changing climate demands we now take evasive action on a more year-round basis, and thus the first step in successfully protecting oneself from the elements is to invest in a model that’s built to last. The second? Finding a design that is resolutely elegant from handle to tip. After all, a well-crafted umbrella should be a subtle expression of one’s sartorial élan too.
It may come as no surprise that Turnbull & Asser’s uncompromising commitment to British craftsmanship also extends to its exclusive umbrellas; the outcome of a long-standing partnership with Fox Umbrellas, whose sophisticated rain repellers have been handmade in England since 1868. They are every bit as individual as a Turnbull shirt, and the techniques required to manufacture them are the culmination of 149 years of refinement.
For Turnbull & Asser, Fox has created 10 different styles of umbrella – from slim steel shafts to solid wooden ones – in 75 different colour options, with 10 types of handle, ranging from whangee to malacca cane. Turnbull & Asser also offer a bespoke service to their customers, with dozens of ways of adapting an umbrella to personal preferences. As Paul Garrett, Fox’s managing director, explains, ‘If you take one umbrella – say our classic gentleman’s tube frame – there are 22 standard colours, but then you have the various optional patterns, the different handles, the decision over whether to opt for nickel, black or gilt tips, engraved collars, and so on.’
At the Fox workshop in London, each umbrella starts out as a large roll of cloth, which is folded and then carefully cut to make the eight identical panels required for the signature canopy shape. The panels are then hemmed by hand on both sides to prevent any unsightly raw trims, before the metal tips are added and the fabric sewn onto the ribs. The skeleton of the umbrella then proceeds to the workshop, where the handle and shaft is hand crafted and fitted.
At each point along the chain the umbrella is carefully scrutinised to ensure Fox’s high standards are adhered to. ‘We are the top umbrella manufacturer in the world,’ Garrett continues, ‘so our products have to have the best quality.’ It is this attention to detail – and the sheer breadth of choice available to the customer – that continues to unite these two great British brands, whatever the weather.