East London Parasols blend modern-day design with age-old traditions from the colourful lands of India and Indonesia, to create fun and flamboyant one-off pieces. Founder Lucy Ferguson tells the story behind her unique brand.

Seeds of an idea

Whilst living in India I saw bright and colourful temple umbrellas used in Hindu temple celebrations in Kerala and I wondered why garden parasols were all green, white or boring! Thus, East London Parasol Company was born.

Making people feel fabulous

I have now been going to India for 23 years and enjoyed a decade of summers at festivals. Iíve been incredibly lucky to spend time in these colourful, beautiful and creative places which have really influenced my taste and style. My aim was to make something full of joy which would put a smile on peopleís faces and make them feel fabulous. I wanted to inspire people to embrace colour and theatricality and what is more cheerful and fabulous than a flamboyant sun parasol?

Positive interaction at the heart of the company

I work with great people and place positive interaction at the centre of the company; itís not a faceless business. I work closely with artisans in Bali and Jaipur. Now I spend seven months a year travelling between India and Indonesia sampling, quality checking and working on the production process. The relationships Iíve developed with my suppliers have become a joy, they know my friends and have met my parents and I know their families too. Itís become a partnership and they are incredibly proud of what we create together.

Highs and lows

The first production run was gruelling; I had hardly any capital, I didnít know anyone in Jaipur, and I didnít know anything about making parasols or even starting a company. I learned a lot of lessons that year. At the lowest point my dearest friend flew out from the UK to surprise me on my birthday, it was a great reminder that your people are the most important thing in life. I love what I do but Iím only able to enjoy it because I have strong, loving and supportive family and friends. The high points are the relationships Iíve built and keep building with suppliers, customers and all the brilliant people I meet along the way. My favourite thing is when happy customers send or post photos of their parasols, it feels like a little members club.

Taking inspiration from the wonders of nature

I love discovering new combinations of colour and pattern, thereís nothing better than travelling in different cultures or looking at the wonders of nature to inspire you. Iím in awe of designers who are brave and brilliant with colour like Marie-Anne Oudejans, who designed Bar Palladio in Jaipur, and The Martin Brudnizki Design Studio who worked on Annabelís private membersí club in London. The creations of Matthew Williamson and de Gournay are visual treats, and I love both the warmth and ethos of Desmond and Dempsey.

The next move

I havenít had enough bizarre requests yet; Iíd love some wonderful challenges for bespoke parasols. At the start I think people were a bit baffled by the concept of a parasol, many people thought they might come without a pole! Luckily for us, as the company has grown everyone seems much more confident about owning one. Soon we are launching in the USA... which is wonderful and terrifying all at once!