Why umbrellas? They're the result of a practical need. "My family is fair-skinned and we were always huddled under flimsy, ugly umbrellas," she says.
She found craftsmen in England to manufacture her eventual prototype, which had a long screw on the bottom to keep the umbrella anchored and fiberglass stays to maintain its shape. The first time she tested it—on a beach in February, no less—she jumped up and down with friends when her creation stood firm in gusty winds. "People thought we were crazy."