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the umbrella & Aurillac

Left: golfing umbrellas made by Piganiol,
with the Basque good luck motif

Golfing umbrellas made by Piganiol

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the French umbrella & Aurillac

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introduction - Aurillac and umbrellas
the umbrella industry
some umbrella companies in Aurillac
  Piganiol - since 1884
  Delos and the square umbrella
  some other companies of the l'aurillac label
umbrella construction and design
end notes

introduction - Aurillac and umbrellas

France has many towns and regions known for making one product - Agen prunes, Menton lemons, kiwi fruit from Peyrhorade, wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace, Toulouse violets, perfumes from Grasse, lace and cider from Brittany, cheeses from … all over France, slippers from the Charente region, chairs from Hagetmau, gloves and other leather goods from Millau, and umbrellas from Aurillac.

Capital of the umbrella since 1850 and capital of the department of Cantal [dept. 15], Aurillac produces more than half of the umbrellas made in France. This represented 500,000 units in 1999, supplying 100 jobs.

The local Aurillac museum has an exceptional collection of old umbrellas, some of which date from the 17th century. There are lots of lovely medieval architecture and half-timbering and a former convent with sarcophagi dating back to the Middle Ages. There are medieval passageways, stairways, balconies, and Renaissance-style architecture that was built on later. Locals are called Aurillacois.

marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page

the umbrella industry at Aurillac

This industry suffered several decades of decline at the end of the twentieth century, when China deluged Europe with much cheaper, though not necassarily so well made, umbrellas. To help recovery, Aurillacian manufacturers regrouped in 1997 with a common brand, l’aurillac Parapluie - the aurillac umbrella. The label groups members’ umbrella designs under four ranges: Tradition, Fantasy, Creation and Prestige.

While French companies still manufacture high-end, fashionable umbrellas, nearly 95% of those sold in France are imported from Asia. Of the Asian-sourced products, 90% come from China. Before 1990, French umbrella distribution companies sold umbrellas mainly made in Europe for trade prices of about 15 euros/US$16.50. Now, similar umbrellas from China cost from four to five euros/US$4.40 - 5.50.

some umbrella companies in Aurillac

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were fifteen umbrella manufacturers at Aurillac producing one million umbrellas in a year. Now there are but two major companies: Piganiol and SOFRAC, together with some smaller players. will purview one of the oldest companies, Piganiol, and one of the newest and most original, Delos.

marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page

Piganiol - since 1884

2:50 minutes

marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page

Piganiol boutique at Saint Jean de Luz.
Piganiol boutique at Saint Jean de Luz

A family business, founded in 1884, Piganiol manufactured approximately 150,000 umbrellas in 2005 and imported up to 1.5 million from China. The company also works with several other manufacturers, ordering between 1,000 to 10,000 lots from them at a time.

Piganiol makes high quality umbrellas, supplying well-established French hypermarkets and department stores, such as Carrefour, Galeries Lafayette, Auchan, Monoprix and Casino, the Pinault-Printemps-Redoubt Group, Bon Marche and other smaller shops. The company also exports to various foreign markets, such as Japan.

Piganiol has a boutique in Aurilliac [1] and their web-site, where can be seen their umbrellas for men, women, children, folding and rigid umbrellas, collections for spring/summer and autumn/winter ....

Selection of umbrellas from a recent Piganiol collection.
Selection of umbrellas from a recent Piganiol collection.

Like haute-couture fashion, Piganiol makes two collections a year. Their web-site shows their twice-yerly collections, as well as enduring classic designs that they have patented. Competitors, particularly Chinese ones, steal designs unprotected by patents. However, the latest collections are always on display in their shops, or other chains that resell Piganiol designs.

Piganiol umbrellas may be more expensive, but they do have a life-long guarantee that works (at least in France). If your umbrella is damaged, or has a manufacturing fault, and is returned to Piganiol, it will be repaired at the Aurillac factory, and returned to you by a delivery company.

marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page





advertising disclaimer

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Delos and the square umbrella

Delos carré square umbrellas. Image credit:  Delos-France
Image credit: Delos-France

Designed by Gérard Delos [1] after he was made redundant by a major umbrella manufacturer, the “Carré Delos” [2] is a fully customizable umbrella - you provide a photograph or design to print onto the canopy. The umbrella comprises four parts: the handle, the shaft, the rib system and the canopy; the handle and canopy may be chosen separately.

All the accessories are interchangeable; the after-sales service only supplies spare parts to customers, who can then easily assemble them without the need for any special tools (screw-in assembly).

Delos carré. Image credit: Delos-France
Image credit: Delos-France

Models made for promotion, or advertising

Examples of personalised umbrellas.

From this page you can order complete umbrellas, scarves only or spare parts.

You may come across other square umbrellas, but they are built on the standard frame, owner repairs being difficult and with a canopy that cannot be changed.

marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page

other companies of the l'aurillac label

SOFRAP crayon umbrellas.Image credit: SOFRAP
Image credit: SOFRAP
Carré umbrella by Dablin. Image credit: Dablin parapluies
Image credit: Dablin parapluies


marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page

umbrella construction and design

There are many ways to resolve the puzzle of how to stretch and support the material, whether fabric or something else, that makes the rainproof shelter that is an umbrella.

Beyond the standard radiating ribs, many solutions have be devised. One of the prettier answers from Piganiol has pairs of struts curved to appear as the opening petals of a flower.

  Another type of ribbing from Piganiol.    One of Piganiol's orginal ribbing design, incorporated into a town umbrella
Left: a more common ribbing construction on a town umbrella.
Right: one of Piganiol’s orginal ribbing designs, incorporated into a different colourway of the same umbrella


Another solution is the 9-ribbed shepherd’s umbrella.

Under a traditional shepherd's umbrella,from  Piganiol
Image credit: Piganiol

umbrella mechanism from Piganiol. Piganiol's Saint Jean de Luz umbrella

Above: opening and support mechanism from Piganiol [colour-adjusted photo of Saint Jean de Luz umbrella]
Right: Piganiol’s Saint Jean de Luz umbrella.[4]



The rotary umbrella. Image credit: treehugger.comtreehugger competition finalist: rotary umbrella

A recent design competition for ecologically sound umbrellas included this umbrella, the rotary umbrella, that opens and shuts like a type of cocktail decoration, designed to cradle in the arm.






marker at umbrellas from  Aurillac page

end notes

  1. Piganiol:
    28 r Forgerons, 15000 Aurillac
    Tel: 04 71 43 05 51
    Factory: 9 r Ampère, 15000 Aurillac

    14 r Rocher,15000 Aurillac
    SOFRAP (Société Française de Parapluie)
    Chemin du Bousquet, 15000 AURILLAC

  2. Carré is French for square.
    Parapluie comes from para - beyond (Greek) and pluie - rain (French)
    Similarly, parasol comes from para and sol - sun (French)
    Umbrella from ombrello (Italian), diminutive of umbra - shade, shadow

  3. French towns frequently have town colours. In the deep south west of France, Bayonne and Dax have red and white, Rion de Landes blue and yellow, Soustons blue and white, Sauveterre green and white, and those of Saint Jean de Luz are black and red.

    These colours are used on flags, bunting, posters and window displays during their week-long férias - drunken bull-fighting rave-ups with fairs and sometimes bull runs in the town, with the population dressing in a local uniform of white plus coloured neck-scarves and waist sashes. Note the associated feria bull motif on this umbrella.
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