In 2005, David Kahng felt that the umbrella market wasn't getting the attention it deserved. So the Tufts engineering grad, along with his business partner, Ben Tai, founded Davek out of his New York City apartment with nothing but a round of financing from friends and family. Today, the company's eight-product line, which includes the Alert, a sleek, sturdy, $135 contraption, sells in 350 stores across the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, and Europe, including Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Bergdorf Goodman. Davek's unconditional guarantee covers repairs and replacements for life--or, as Kahng puts it, "one umbrella forever."
No Loose Ends
The canopy, made from a 210-thread-count microweave fabric from Taiwan, is thinner and more durable than those on cheaper umbrellas. A water- repellent coating allows Daveks to dry with just a few shakes.
The Weight of Expectations
Davek umbrellas are hefty. That is intentional: "When something's made really well," Kahng says, "you can feel the density of that piece."
The Alert has a proximity beacon embedded in the handle. The umbrella sends a smartphone notification if its owner sets it down and moves more than 30 feet away.
Design by Failure
In 2005, Davek had a product run in which the rivets began to rust after six months. The company had to pull all the stock and replace the faulty parts. Now, Davek's rivets are made from stainless steel, which costs five times as much.
Only in New York
Prototyping is much easier in New York City's storied garment district; in one of those mazelike wholesale emporiums, Kahng found the perfect little fastener that lets users snap the ultra-compact Traveler model onto a bag strap.
A Delicate Balance
Instead of using just the aluminum found in most drugstore umbrellas, Davek combines high-grade steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and a zinc alloy to balance rigidity and flexibility. This allows the umbrella to invert when gusts hit and revert intact.