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Alex Eagle x James Ince Umbrellas: History in the Making

Alex Eagle x James Ince Umbrellas: History in the Making

More than 200 years of craftsmanship are behind the perfect form of the Alex Eagle Umbrella.

When looking to create a signature umbrella, Alex Eagle chose her collaborator for their 215 years of experience in the craft.

James Ince Umbrellas have been making umbrellas for over two centuries, starting in 1805 on Whites Row making silk and whalebone varieties, graduating to a factory on Bishopsgate during the Victorian period, making military umbrellas during WW1 and canvas gun covers for WW2, before contracting again to their current premises in Hackney.

The history of the company is almost as old as the umbrella itself and it remains a family business in every sense – Richard Ince is the sixth generation to handmake umbrellas in the East end of London.

‘In essence, the method has not changed over the last 200 years,’ he says. ‘The introduction of the treadle sewing machine in the 1850s revolutionised our industry, and the 1950s saw an increase in mechanisation. But we still cut and assemble in much the same way – it has just got a lot quicker!’

Even with over 200 years in the umbrella business, the team at James Ince Umbrellas are still innovating in their field, the Alex Eagle Umbrella being a case in point.

‘It’s the first time we’ve made the very compact Auto Open/Auto Close style of Umbrella, and I believe we are the only company in the UK who makes them,’ says Richard proudly. ‘The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified beechwood handle was hand turned in Ilkeley, West Yorkshire and laser engraved in Essex.’

The company also makes umbrellas for Richard James and Cad and the Dandy on Savile Row, while Christys’ Hats, Loake, Ally Capellino and Simon Carter are all customers. But for Richard, some of his favourite recent commissions have been what he describes as ‘weird umbrellas’ which have featured in everything from Oscar winning films and onstage at the Royal Opera House to the Superbowl half time show and the London Olympics opening ceremony.

When your job could involve anything from making a compact umbrella for Alex Eagle, fashioning Hagrid’s tiny umbrella for the Harry Potter films or making 350 inverted umbrellas for a performance featuring Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, it’s easy to see why Richard is still enjoying himself.

‘The future is quite interesting though not without issues. We now have our largest production team for over 20 years so things are looking positive. We will continue to strive for a decent honest sustainable product that people are proud to own and that will become a trusty friend.’

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