Umbra (company)

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Founded 1979
Founder Paul Rowan and
Les Mandelbaum
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Products Housewares

Umbra is a home accessories design and manufacturing company. The company has headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and satellite offices in the Netherlands, Brazil, the United States, and China. The firm sells more than 2,000 home products through over 25,000 retailers in 120 countries.[1]


The firm was founded in 1978 by childhood friends Les Mandelbaum and Paul Rowan.[2] The firm opened its first store in Toronto's Queen West District in 2007.[3] It has retail stores in the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, China, Israel, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore, and the Umbra and Umbra Shift e-commerce websites. Umbra products are also sold through other retailers.

Umbra Concept Store in downtown Toronto


Umbra has an in-house design team headed by Matt Carr, consisting of over 30 designers in Canada and abroad. Many independent designers have also collaborated with the firm. Notable ones who have made significant contributions to Umbra include Karim Rashid,[4] Hlynur Atlason, and Harry Allen

In 1996, Umbra teamed up with Rashid to create what would become one of the company’s most well-known products; the GARBO trash can. The wastebasket was named after actress Greta Garbo, mimicking the shape of her body. It sold more than two million units within the first two years of production and continues to sell today in a miniature version, GARBINO. It was donated to the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 and added into the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in 2000. In 1997, it earned the Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award.

Rashid also designed the OH Chair for Umbra; a "scoop" of plastic, making use of negative space, modeled into a chair. These hairs are still in the firm's catalogue today.

Umbra Shift[edit]

Umbra Shift is a brand extension of Umbra that utilizes higher end materials and different production techniques. The products are sold through the independent retailers and the Umbra Shift website.


  • 1997 Good Design Award at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum – Garbino
  • 1998 Best Design Strategy Award at the Design Effectiveness Awards
  • 1999 IDEA Award – The Oh Chair
  • 1999 Best Collection Award at the New York Accent on Design Show
  • 1999 Good Design Award at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum – Juxta, Suma, Tri, Jumbo, bi, and Rim Bowls,[5] Slip Shoe Horn
  • 1999 Brooklyn Museum of Art – Garbino[6][7]
  • 1999 Permanent SF MOMA Objects, San Francisco – OH Chair[8]
  • 2000 Permanent Collection The Museum of Modern Art, NYC, Dept. of Architecture & Design – Garbo[9]
  • 2001 Premier’s Award for Outstanding Achievement from the colleges of Ontario – Paul Rowan
  • 2003 Good Design Award at the Chicago Athenaeum Museum – Bungee Card Case[10]
  • 2006 Housewares Design Award – The Magino Stool
  • 2006 Pratt Institute Winner – Conceal Shelf[11]
  • 2010 HOUSEWARES DESIGN AWARD International Homewares Association – Fish Hotel
  • 2010 Les Mandelbaum and Paul Rowan inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends as Visionaries
  • 2011 International Forum Product Design Award – Penguin Soap Pump[12]
  • 2014 ICFF Editors Award for Best Accessories – Umbra Shift
  • 2014 Paul Rowan appointed to the Board of the International Housewares Association.
  • 2016 Les Mandelbaum awarded EY's 'Entrepreneur of the Year' Consumer Products Category [13]


  1. ^ "Canada's Umbra celebrates 35 big years of small design with reinvented Queen W. flagship store | Toronto Star". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  2. ^ "Shop Modern Home Décor - Free Shipping Over $50 | Umbra". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  3. ^ Drolet, Daniel. “Umbra proves flagship stores still have their place.” Canwest News Service 19 Jul. 2008: D3
  4. ^ "Karim Rashid". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "GARBINO CAN SILVER | Umbra". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "OH CHAIR JASMINE | Umbra". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  9. ^ "Karim Rashid's Garbo Turns 20: Does Its Message Still Hold Up?". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  10. ^ "BUNGEE CARD CASE BLACK | Umbra". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  11. ^ "CONCEAL BOOK SHELF LARGE SILVER | Umbra". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  12. ^ "PENGUIN SOAP PUMP NICKEL | Umbra". Retrieved 2017-01-12. 
  13. ^

External links[edit]