And still umbrellas are seriously flawed. They drip, they flip inside out, they snap in half, they poke bystanders in the eye. Their usable life span is sometimes as short as one big downpour, and then they transmogrify into unwieldy non-recyclable trash. In 2006, the design magazine I.D., the Web site Treehugger, and the Sustainable Style Foundation sponsored a contest to address what they termed “the umbrella problem,” which encompassed both the poor performance of umbrellas and the issue of their afterlife. In announcing the contest, I.D.’s editor-in-chief, Julie Lasky, noted, “Umbrellas suffer from design flaws that often lead to their premature and messy deaths and unwelcome burials in landfills.” The finalists in the better-umbrella category were the Pollinate Umbrella (made of recycled materials and entirely biodegradable); the Penta, which collects rain so that it can be used later to water garden plants; and the Crayella (the eventual winner), which featured easy-to-repair ribs. (According to Crayella’s designers, “Individuals can create micro-businesses that repair Crayellas quickly on the street, like offering a shoe-shine, and collect and repair discarded Crayellas for resale.”) The second category called for “a couture garment constructed from former umbrellas.” The winning entry was an evening gown made of salvaged umbrella canopies, with a fauxcorset made of discarded umbrella ribs, designed by the aptly named Rainer Wolter.
Orlean's article focuses on an inventor named Steve Hollinger who, working on his own sewing machine, created this areodynamic umbrella (to combat Wind, Destroyer of Umbrellas) with extended front- and back-sides so that water doesn't drop on your shoes.
It looks kinda like this SENZ Windproof umbrella from Totes. And it costs only $55. With a lifetime warranty. Seems like a good deal. The future is here.
Of course, if you're the kind of person who is OK fighting with Wind and owns waterproof shoes, you might want to consider this Sprout Umbrella, which has the benefit of kicking ass in the looks and the ass-kicking department.