Tired of flimsy umbrellas that don’t really keep you dry? Pelcor’s new cork skin umbrellas are expertly crafted to last.
Most umbrellas are flimsy affairs, with frames made of aluminum and nylon canopies. They’re supposed to be treated with an acrylic coating on the underside and a scotch-guard type finish on the top, but I’ve definitely had umbrellas become soaked and then leak after about 5 minutes in a strong rain.
Pelcor is a Portuguese company looking to upgrade the umbrella’s image, with an eco-friendly twist. Their entire product line is made from cork, a sustainable material that’s found predominantly in Portugal.
The cork oak has an extremely long lifespan and is the only tree in the world whose bark regenerates itself. It takes 20 to 25 years before the first cork can be removed from a cork oak, but after that, it can be harvested every 9 years. Removing the bark without harming the tree is an extremely delicate task, requiring highly-skilled artisans that are usually paid well for their efforts.
In 2003, Sandra Correia, granddaughter of the founder of Pelcor, 30 year-old cork factory, challenged her father to think beyond the champagne stopperss that had been the company’s bread and butter. She wanted to make cork feminine and fashionable. Correia envisioned creating accessories out of cork skin as a way to help sustain the cork industry and bring to market products that are both stylish and practical.
The first product she created was an umbrella, which I recently had the good fortune of being invited to test. The first thing that struck me about this Pelcor cork umbrella was the subtle but delicious scent of dry wood and the extremely smooth texture of its case. It felt light and thin, not at all like the cork boards and wine corks we’re all used to.
“After the tiradia (process of harvesting), the cork is left to dry in the meadow,” explains the Pelcor website. “Raw planks of cork are then boiled, making them more elastic and easier to flatten, after which they are sorted by thickness and quality.”
Once I removed the protective sleeve, it was time to unfurl the umbrella. For me, the action was a little stiff, but I’ve read that cork skin is a lot like leather, becoming smoother and more supple over time. The umbrella popped into place with only a little effort, revealing a lovely cappuccino-colored canopy, just the right size for protecting your head from summer showers.
It might be a little counter-intuitive, but cork is naturally impermeable, buoyant, elastic – even fire resistant. It kept me dry without any of those chemical-based waterproofing agents that grace the canopies of other umbrellas. I especially loved the curved handle, which brings to mind the classic “business man” umbrellas of the early 2oth century.
The Pelcor umbrella is available online, in two versions – tall and compact – at Pelcor’s website. Prices range from $148 to $165.