Under the umbrella

For 25 years, a local firm has been using innovative methods to make exquisitely detailed umbrellas, passing the skills and expertise down through generations.

In the vibrant heart of Salt River, Cape Town, in 1999, Cape Umbrellas embarked on a journey that would redefine the world of umbrellas. What began as an import venture, Cape Umbrellas transformed into a local umbrella manufacturing business fuelled by a vision for high-quality craftsmanship, employing only five staff members.

In 2002, Cape Umbrellas proceeded to manufacture and patent the EasyLift Umbrella, initially known as the ‘powerbrella’, the world’s first and only self-opening umbrella. Within six months, the firm’s unique umbrellas found their way to over four countries, including the esteemed Enea in Switzerland – a partnership Cape Umbrellas proudly maintains to this day.

The demand surged, and by 2004, the factory moved to larger premises, employing a team of 22 to keep pace with the growing enthusiasm for Cape Umbrellas. A mere factory in 1999 had evolved into a household name.

In 2015, the Van Zyl family moved from Johannesburg and relocated to Cape Town, looking for a business with which they felt the family could connect, given the experience in the manufacturing industry and love for all things outdoor. Cape Umbrellas changed ownership to the Van Zyl family. 

By 2017, Cape Umbrellas’ growth was meteoric, expanding into Mauritius, Seychelles, Dubai, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. A state-of-the-art factory in Cape Town, Airport City, became the firm’s headquarters, employing in excess of 65 shade gurus and marking a milestone in this African-made legacy.

In 2021, resilience shone through the challenges of Covid. Acquiring a metal fabrication business and unveiling a semi-automated wood processing facility allowed the firm unprecedented control over quality. The momentum continued into 2022, with Cape Umbrellas setting up offices and warehouses in Jacksonville, United States, and Almere, Netherlands, fortifying the global footprint.

Now, in 2023, Cape Umbrellas stands tall, exporting to over 20 countries, manufacturing 50,000 umbrellas annually, and employing a dedicated team of over 100. The 6,500 sqm facilities in Cape Town echo with innovation, boasting four large UV digital printers to meet diverse client needs. Sustainability is at the company’s core, symbolised by a fully installed solar power system at its headquarters, a testament to Cape Umbrellas’ commitment to a brighter and greener future.

From a small importer to a global force, Cape Umbrellas has not just weathered storms but embraced them, crafting a story of resilience, quality, and unwavering dedication – proudly born in Cape Town, South Africa.