Forget Gucci or Prada, it’s Kerala’s umbrella makers who kick-start trends

There is now even a selfie umbrella
Forget Gucci or Prada, it’s Kerala’s umbrella makers who kick-start trends
Forget Gucci or Prada, it’s Kerala’s umbrella makers who kick-start trends
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Forget Gucci or Prada, its Kerala’s umbrella makers that have the cutting edge accessory trends

So you might look to Paris, New York or Milan for the latest trends in fashion accessories. But what if we were to tell you that the cutting edge of accessory trends lies along Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram? Sceptical?

Let us paint you a picture:

Three young Malayali women are trying to take a selfie but just can’t get the angle right. They ask a passing boy for a selfie stick, but he offers them his umbrella instead. Now like those women, you’re probably thinking he’s a bit lost in his mind. But bear in mind, this is Kerala, and from boiling summer to soaking wet monsoon the umbrella is the one constant companion of every Malayali.

But as every’s Malayali’s constant companion, the umbrella can’t just keep the rain or sun off you. Popy, one of  the leading umbrella manufacturers in the state, for instance, wants you to be prepared for just the kind of scene we’ve painted above. And viola, the selfie-stick umbrella is born.

There is also a fully electric umbrella with automatic gear shift control! 

Or let’s say it’s raining cats and dogs and most of the rest of McDonald’s farm. And the only way you can get away from the local self-entitled “cool dude” is to take a call and walk away. But you don’t want to get your phone wet. Simply hook your phone up to your umbrella, thanks to the Bluetooth umbrella.

And no, that’s not the limit of Kerala’s umbrella innovation:

Ultra-violet silver coating (to protect your skin from harmful UV rays), water-repellent technology, wind-proof technology, uni-chrome gold plating (to prevent rusting), high carbon steel — you name the technology, and these umbrellas have it.

Take Johns Umbrella Mart’s H2O Shake Umbrella, which can give stiff competition to the myriad fairness creams and sun screens in the market with its UPF 40+ coating.

Then there’s the Johns Air umbrella, which claims to use aerodynamic technology to make the umbrella unbendable even in high speed winds.

Or the famous Popy Nano, shrunk down to fit in your pant pockets. 

And it gets funkier with the children’s models: The ‘Mayavi’ kuda, a Popy model, will change colors once water touches the surface of the umbrella, making the super-hero-like Mayavi come to life.

Watch the ad here.

Johns, on the other hand, had a kid’s model some years ago named Maca Mia. The model was also known as the bubble breaker umbrella, since it allowed kids to make and break bubbles.

And here you probably thought you couldn’t go much further than painting the traditional karuppu kuda in five different colours!

 Though some of the innovations tickle one's funny bone, the umbrella business is not one to be taken lightly. In Kerala’s umbrella culture, the brands Popy and Johns are at the helm.  Thayyil Abraham Varghese’s grandsons founded the St George Umbrella Mart in 1954 in Alappuzha.  In 1995 it was split into two with Joseph Thayyil founding the Johns Umbrella mart and Davis Thayyil forming the Popy Umbrella Mart.

According to Johns, seven to ten million umbrellas are sold in Kerala every year, and almost all of them produced in the state’s umbrella capital-Alappuzha.
Johns and Popy brothers are believed to own about 80% of the market, and also export to US, Europe and other parts of India.

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