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UMBRELLAS Grand opening brightens rainy day


Published: Sat, March 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Cheap tote umbrellas destroyed the romance of carrying an umbrella.
By KAREN GAUDETTE
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Rain, rain go away. On second thought, get back here! Because we've discovered a brilliant way to distract ourselves from your gloom.
Rather than gripe about the rain, let us celebrate it by accenting it with a delightful umbrella.
Most people own at least one, usually the standard black or blue variety that blows inside-out at the first hint of a breeze. But as with toothbrushes, stand mixers and other everyday tools initially designed for function, umbrellas have evolved to deliver practicality with panache.
Or perhaps, rather, they're simply returning to how they used to be.
Consider the array of wonderful specimens in the Duvall, Wash.-area home of Jodell Egbert. Racks of umbrellas of every color and texture imaginable line her office wall.
Ostrich feathers form a floaty fringe along the edges of one white parasol. Rows of ruffles bedeck an orange-red umbrella and a flower pattern lines the inside of another. Faux-jewels glint from handles of umbrellas that open into shapes that resemble flowers, the roofs of pagodas and big bubbles.
Egbert, owner of Bella Umbrella, rents and sells vintage and vintage-inspired umbrellas from as far back as the 1880s, when an elegant umbrella or parasol was as requisite as a pair of shoes or a nice hat for heading out the door.
"The tote umbrella really destroyed the whole romance of carrying an umbrella. They're $5 and they break. That's what people have really gotten used to, is that they're a disposable item," Egbert said.
Changing attitudes
She and fellow umbrella aficionado Satoko Kobayashi of Seattle hope to change that attitude, especially in the Northwest, where folks are often more inclined to pull up a Gore-Tex hood than bother with an umbrella.
Kobayashi, owner of Pare Umbrella, imports a range of chic umbrellas from Tokyo, where they remain an essential wardrobe component and vary in color and design by the season.
Her offerings, sold online and at boutiques up and down the West Coast, favor fancy patterns of vari-colored martini glasses, stripes, polka dots, leaves, vines and flowers. Some have bamboo handles. All would stand out on a gray day.
"I came here from Tokyo like 10 years ago and the first thing I noticed is that there aren't any good umbrellas in Seattle," Kobayashi said.
No age limit
Her customers range from high-school kids to women in their 50s and 60s.
"People who used to have beautiful umbrellas, back when America used to have beautiful umbrellas, too," she said.
Plenty of beautiful women in beautiful clothes carry tote umbrellas that just don't go, Kobayashi says. She's certain people would enjoy using an umbrella if they knew about the variety now available -- enough to match any outfit, car or personality.
"I have a feeling that people who have umbrellas like this feel really good on a rainy day."


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