AN OUTDOOR ICON
Back in the '90s when I travelled to Paris on business, I was immediately struck by the outdoor umbrellas that line the streets and balconies, shielding the coffee tables in the heat of the day. Coming from China this was not something that I had seen before on such a scale. These simple umbrellas seemed to me to have a profound affect on the street-scape, adding a whole other dimension that brought it to life. I came to realise that these umbrellas were intricately linked to the culture of this place!Xthe lifestyles of the people that live here and the aesthetic character that is unique to Paris!Xand indeed much of Europe.
Around about the same time a friend of mine, Mr Cui Zhongmin, who was involved in importing and exporting, had taken the idea of courtyard umbrellas back with him to China, where he developed the first modern wooden garden umbrella to be manufactured in China, which was soon to exported to markets all over the world.
The first aluminium alloy garden umbrella manufacturing facility!Xwhich would later become SAIL Umbrella Factory!Xsoon followed and became the leading foreign export-oriented manufacturer in the Chinese outdoor furniture industry. Today, SAIL is no more, but China's outdoor furniture industry continues to thrive, reaching households worldwide.
The second generation of Chinese manufactured garden umbrellas that came onto the market was the Cantilever version which was known as the Crown umbrella.
Outdoor furniture industry insider Michael Li explains the genesis of China’s entry into to the market and it’s changing face.
The second generation of Chinese manufactured garden umbrellas that came onto the market was the Cantilever version which was known as the Crown umbrella. This was introduced into Australia by supplier Contract Casual Furniture (which later became OSMEN Furniture). The agent responsible for this was Vince Dennis, an experienced sales agent known to everyone in the industry, who had a special appreciation for garden umbrellas and was instrumental in making this new type of garden umbrella widely available to the Australian consumer through Harvey Norman Furniture.
Since then, two major garden umbrella suppliers emerged in Australia's outdoor furniture market; Shelta and Contract Casual Furniture, both of whom served their customers with exceptionally high standards and a dedicated spirit. Contract Casual Furniture went on to successfully transition into retail as OSMEN Furniture, while Shelta, which had a one hundred year history, recently changed ownership. The relationship between these two major suppliers has transformed from that of competitors into friendly cooperative partners, under the shared shade of the garden umbrella.
The humble garden umbrella remains one of the iconic items that brings all Australians together, sort of like a May pole for the southern hemisphere.