When it starts to rain, millions open their umbrellas – until a powerful gust of wind knocks them out. One of the nation’s last umbrella makers says cheap umbrellas are not good business. He even has the idea of forgetting about the boring screen.
The basics in brief
- Umbrellas don’t have to be disposable items that end up folded into boxes after every stronger wind.
You can also build it by hand with chestnut wood, carbon rods, set screws and double-woven roof lining and then use it for many years, says Willi Schöffler from Essen.
The 74-year-old is one of the last major umbrella makers in Germany to produce such high-quality umbrellas in-house and in quantities greater than 2,000 to 3,000 annually.
On special request, Schüffler will sometimes install an expensive silver-plated umbrella handle with the owner’s signature or sew a bracket into the umbrella’s closing strap. So you can locate it if you left it there.
Musician or performer Smodo even asked him for an umbrella with a sparkling, bejeweled “Swarovski handle,” says the 74-year-old. The most expensive regular Scheueffler model costs 800 eurofor 50 euro He has already provided a “very decent” awning, which he will repair for free for ten years.
Chinese manufacturers are increasingly cheaper
The umbrella maker is a dying profession: it was removed from the list of apprenticeships at the end of the 1990s, says a spokeswoman for the Dusseldorf Chamber of Crafts, which is responsible for Schueffler. Schüffler’s small four-person operation is the last in the room area.
In the 1970s and 1980s, parachute production in Germany was still the world leader, says the 74-year-old, who began his craft in dad Learn. The Brauer umbrella factory in Aachen alone employed more than 1,000 people at the best of times. Then the work was increasingly taken over by cheaper Chinese manufacturers, who today almost completely dominate the world market.
In his basement workshop, the 74-year-old installs a wooden parachute stick into his mechanism, built in 1933. He cuts a recess for the steel Solingen spring, which will later hold the frame for the parachute poles. Then he grinds the tip. It smells like wood. Now the canvas of the sky can be sewn.
Overcome competitive pressure from the Far East
Shuffler does not want to be intimidated by the crushing competitive pressure from the Far East. According to the Federal Statistical Office, nearly 40 thousand tons of umbrellas were imported to Germany in 2021 – foreign trade statistics are based on weight. With a generously calculated weight of one kilogram per umbrella, this corresponds to no fewer than 40 million umbrellas imported annually.
People think they will save if they buy 5euro-Take an umbrella with you at the drugstore,” says Scheffler. “But umbrellas don’t last even one season, a bad deal for buyers and an unimaginable mountain of rubbish.” And yet there are only a few masters of his craft nationwide. Most of them are repaired. Almost exclusively, only a very few companies produced occasionally and hardly any noteworthy quantities.
Wanted as a comprehensive expert
Schueffler, as one of the most recent of his kind, is even required as a comprehensive expert – along with a professor from Aachen – when the higher regional court in Düsseldorf, which is responsible for patent disputes, must decide on trademark and knowledge theft. Here, too, it often has to do with Chinese suppliers, he says.
The umbrella fan is especially closely watching the English market. After all, what is probably the oldest umbrella shop in Europe, James Smith & Sons, was established in London in 1830, and continues to produce itself to this day. “Always in black: the Englishman wears a black umbrella,” says Shuffler. Unlike the German, who likes to use colors, if only because of better visibility in the drizzle.
One thing always bothers Scheffler when he looks at the island: “The… queen She often wore such cheap plastic umbrellas.” Fortunately, this is the case now King Charles Changed: «Uses exclusive and valuable umbrellas».