East London Parasol Company On Starting The Craze For Brightly Coloured Garden Shades

By CTH Editors

5 months ago

East London Parasol Company is a Great British Brand 2024

East London Parasol Company is an entry in our Great British Brands 2024 book. 

East London Parasol Company: Great British Brand 2024

Orange parasol with tassels

‘East London Parasol Company is founded on relationships. I’ve worked with some of our makers for nearly a decade, and we know each other’s families.I first came across jewel-coloured temple umbrellas when I lived in Kerala, South India. I lived in a tiny, pink house and decorated my unprepossessing terrace with colourful parasols. When I moved back to the UK the parasols came with me. I wanted to create a business that makes people feel cheerful, and the parasols always make everyone smile.

I returned to India to find the umbrella-makers, and to see if I could build a business around their joyful creations. We are a craft business, and no part of our production is automated – the dyes for our screen-printed canopies are mixed by hand and eye; the bamboo parasol poles are carved in Bali; our sandstone bases are made in Rajasthan by seventh generation stonemasons; our Balinese fabrics are hand-painted, with no stencils or sketching; our frames are made by carpenters and woodturners.

Each piece is made by dedicated artisans, using traditional skills. We produce limited quantities of our designs and each parasol takes several weeks to make. The crafts are timeless, and so, I hope, are our pieces: they are works of art. We don’t follow fashions or trends, or aim to expand into new products. We want to make beautifully crafted parasols that delight our customers, that’s all. We want them to feel the love that has gone into the item they’ve just bought. 

I’m not a complete Luddite. Of course, we use technology – some of our canopies are digitally printed and we’d be lost without it when it comes to logistics: our wonderful warehouse team assembles each octagonal parasol and sends off our orders. And technology makes seamless delivery to our customers possible.’

Lucy Ferguson, owner and director

Parasol with green and white zig zag pattern

Five Proudest Moments

  1. Designing and making our first brightly coloured parasols in 2015 in Kerala, South India with craftspeople whose families had been handmaking art for many, many generations.
  2. Selling out at the 2016 Wilderness Festival. Meeting the public and hearing how much they loved our parasols was wonderful. 
  3. Starting to work with highly skilled Balinese artisans in 2017. Our first parasol, the pink and yellow Whitney, remains one of our most popular products. 
  4. Finding some amazingly talented UK carpenters and wood-turners in 2020 to produce our parasol frames in Hampshire. They’re made with sustainable wood. We are delighted to be supporting British enterprise. 
  5. Collaborating with Warner House in 2020 to create our best-selling Elizabeth Octagonal Parasol, using an ochre recolour of its classic Balmoral print. Warner House has been making exquisite fabrics since 1870.

What I’ve Learnt

  • Never second-guess your customers’ taste. We were nervous that our pink, orange and gold parasols wouldn’t sell, but they flew.
  • Always strive for the best quality in every single aspect of your business. Never compromise or cut corners. 
  • You are nothing without those who make and buy your products. Treat them with respect and do your best by them.