Interview with Lisa Selwitz of Lily-Lark
(Photographs by Angelika Buettner)
Handmade Lily-Lark parasols are produced in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the “parasol capital of the world.”
We spoke to New York entrepreneur (and former NYC creative director) Lisa Selwitz to learn more about the inspiration behind the Lily-Lark brand.
Q: What makes Lily-Lark special? How are parasols made in Thailand superior to other parasols?
A Lily-Lark parasol is a handmade piece of art that’s also functional. It’s made from a soft microfiber fabric instead of paper or nylon, and has a UPF 50+ factor that protects the user from over 98% of the sun’s UV rays. The canopies are printed with original contemporary art that is exclusive to Lily-Lark, and each parasol comes with a matching carrying case.
each parasol comes with a matching carrying case
Lily-Lark is made with a proprietary technique that makes it sturdier and more unique than most other parasols.
Q: What’s the process of creation?
Each piece of wood in a Lily-Lark is carved and then assembled into the beautiful frame of the parasol. The art is painted, drawn, or collaged by a number of different artists, and then digitally printed onto sun-protective fabric. The fabric is then cut into circles, pulled taut and attached at the top and at the tips of the ribs. A seamstress sews the carrying case and the parasols are slid inside and ready to go.
Q: In terms of sun protection, are parasols better than SPF creams or hats?
We don’t necessarily recommend against using an SPF cream in addition to using a parasol, depending on how sensitive you are to sun exposure and how active you are in the sun. I haven’t walked out of my house during the day without an SPF cream on for at least 20 years. But there may be times when you’ve closed the parasol or aren’t carrying it and the additional protection is worthwhile. If a user prefers not to use an SPF cream, they are still protected by the parasol.
Hats are lovely, but usually cover less of the face and body than a parasol, and let’s face it, nobody likes hat hair.
let’s face it, nobody likes hat hair
Q: What made you decide to start your own business? Tell us your background and journey.
I spent many years as an art director/creative director in New York, creating advertising campaigns for a living. Advertising is a highly ageist industry, and I never wanted to look my age. I always walked on the shady side of the street, wore hats and SPF creams to protect my skin, but longed for the convenience of an umbrella. But nobody was using umbrellas or parasols at the time. When I started to observe women carrying umbrellas in the sun, I began to think about it more seriously. Finally, one afternoon I walked around a sculpture garden with my aunt, who was carrying a very unusual Asian parasol and I was inspired at that point to create something new and very special.
I always longed for the convenience of an umbrella
Q: What are some great ways to dress that will complement a parasol?
I like to think the parasol should complement the outfit, not the other way around. On Lily-Lark’s Instagram page (@lily.lark) we show various outfits coordinated with the different prints.
Women should consider their wardrobe and think about what they wear in the warmer months and select prints that work with they are already wearing. In the end, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one print, and can have several that go with a variety of things in your closet. But there are really no types of clothing that won’t work with a parasol. They’ll work with anything you want to wear in the sun, from shorts to gowns.
They’ll work with anything you want to wear in the sun, from shorts to gowns.
Q: What are the advantages of a parasol as a fashion accessory?
A parasol with one of our 13 gorgeous prints on it is fun to carry. And when you carry a chic and elegant parasol, it’s the same as carrying a fabulous handbag. It pulls together the look and, quite frankly, they attract a lot of positive attention everywhere they go.
they attract a lot of positive attention
Q: Now that you’ve arrived somewhere with your parasol, is there a way to carry it once it’s closed?
Yes, it’s folded back up and tied with an attached strap. You then slide it into the matching carrying case and it carry it over your shoulder. It’s not the type of thing that collapses because of the bamboo frame, so the coordinated case was created to allow you to carry it hands-free when not in use.
you can carry it hands-free when not in use