[dropcap2]E[/dropcap2]very now and then, I come across a product that wows me. Sometimes, I discover that it’s not nearly so much about the product itself, as it is about the backstory. This review is about both, an awesome product and one of the most moving stories ever.

Kibibi_Little Lady by Mirasols

Kibibi Little Lady by Mirasols. Photo credit: Joyaux Marisols

For most of us, an umbrella protects us from the elements, keeping us dry in the rain and out of the sun’s heat in summer. For a group of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the umbrella serves as so much more. It is that story that makes these umbrellas more than just great products. Joyaux Marisol LLC, founded by Miranda Leigh to produce Marisol™-brand umbrellas, works to “protect women not only from rain and sunshine, but from violence and war.”

The Marisol Story

Marisol umbrellas are handcrafted in Brooklyn, New York. The colors available change throughout the year, with each umbrella handcrafted from limited-edition African prints based on fabrics worn by the women of the Congo. Twenty percent of the net profits from the sale of these umbrellas goes to City of Joy in the DRC. City of Joy is a unique healing and training center operated by V-Day, a worldwide organization that works to end violence against girls and women. V-Day was started by Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues.

Spring 2013 graduates of city of Joy

Spring 2013 graduates of the City of Joy. Photo credit: Paula Allen for V-Day

Why the Congo? Women in the DRC are routinely tortured and abused through mutilations, rape and a host of physical injuries. Many become pregnant or contract HIV or other diseases as a result of the abuse. Survivors are often abandoned by their communities and families. The Congolese women at the City of Joy find the help and support they need inside this protected environment. Marisol’s Leigh explains that she created Marisol as a way for women everywhere to help. “Marisol™ forms my response to the terrible suffering of the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is my attempt to hand on to others not just the feeling of wanting to help, but actual means by which to do so.

About the umbrellas

I was surprised when I received the sample that Joyaux Marisol loaned me for this article. It is sturdy, beautiful and truly a piece of great workmanship. The wax print is vivid and bold as well as 100% rainproof. I believe that any woman carrying a Marisol umbrella would feel strong and confident.

Areta_T by Mirasols

Areta T Mirasol. Photo credit: Joyaux Marisols

There are only limited editions of each wax print available, so what you see on the website today may not be available next month. Leigh has worked with Mr. Gilbert Center, one of the last of the world’s umbrella masters, to learn the best way to construct umbrellas of exceptional quality. You know it’s an umbrella built to last when you first hold it.

The umbrella is constructed with a steel frame and high-carbon steel ribs designed to withstand wind and harsh rains. Opening and closing is a breeze. You simply push the button and it opens smoothly with an auto-open mechanism. I can’t even count how many times over the years I have pinched my fingers trying to close an umbrella. That’s not a problem with the Mirasol. You simply move the runner back down the tube and it snaps in place. No metal springs to pinch your fingers or get jammed.

The handle is teardrop-shaped, constructed of brightly colored lucite. When you go online to order your Marisol, the first step is selecting a handle color. Options are red, pink, coral, orange, yellow, green, sky blue, deep blue and purple. Marisol stands behind its designs with a limited lifetime warranty. Your purchase will come with care instructions to help you keep your handcrafted masterpiece looking new.

[fancy_header3 variation=”purple”]Purchasing an umbrella[/fancy_header3]

The Marisol-branded umbrellas are not cheap, but keep in mind that each one is masterfully crafted and a percentage of the sales goes to support V-Day.

Ama P Mirasol

Ama P Mirasol. Photo credit: Joyaux Marisols

There are three sizes available:

  • Fille has a 30″ diameter and is designed as an umbrella for a little girl or as a lady’s parasol; sells for $395
  • Demoiselle is 32″ in diameter, offers good protection against rain and fits into a tote bag; sells for $425
  • Dame has a 34″ diameter and is perfect for serious rain showers; sells for $455

I seldom receive products that I genuinely regret returning after I my review, but this is one of those times. While it probably doesn’t rain enough in Arizona to warrant me spending $455 for an umbrella, this is such a beautifully handcrafted item made to help support such a fabulous cause, that I would be honored to give it a home. I can definitely see me walking down the streets of Paris or London–or visiting my sister in Oregon–proudly displaying this beautiful umbrella and explaining its origin.

Class at City of Joy

A classroom at City of Joy in February 2013. Photo credit: Paula Allen for V-Day

To order your umbrella, visit online at http://www.marisols.org. You can also follow Joyaux Marisols on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re looking for some great inspiration, be sure to check out Joyaux Marisols on Pinterest.

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