A Family of Umba Love
Scott Rowland • August 12, 2015 • Lifestyle •
The essence of a festival engages community and heightens camaraderie as all of its attendees indulge in celebration. Under the perfect circumstances, a family forms from the purity of its intention to grow.
Lisa Noble, owner and visionary of Umba, realized early on that selling unique clothing and inspiring artists within the music festival circuit was her calling and the perfect place to build a family of friends. So in 2003 she collaborated with a fellow traveler and business-savvy partner, Tera Anderson, to officially establish Umba as a workable model: the crucial partnership that stabilized the creative spark behind Noble’s vision to cultivate “fun and functional” fashion. After a few years of success, she even convinced her sister, Lonna Bartkowiak, to join the adventure.
Noble’s dream truly solidified after a vacation to Bali when she was invited to attend the royal wedding of the Vice President’s daughter. A jaunt through the local market led Noble to discover a comfortable, natural fabric, rayon, which is perfect for weekends filled with dancing, the true spirit of a music festival. During her visit, Noble set up a work agreement with a Balinese family willing to make clothing to her specifications (Today, similar designs using a fabric called Viscose are customized in Thailand).
Umba’s line of bright and colorful clothing imprinted with eastern symbolism is pushing the boundary of music festival fashion.
“We seek to find and create clothing that inspires as well as embodies both comfort and our unique, playful expression,” Noble says. “Using natural fabrics that layer for comfort and diversity, sleek and sexy styles you can dress up or down.”
But their clothing is only a fraction of the beauty inlaid. Noble’s quaint idea of selling mesh yoga pants transformed into a defining presence through the availability of an open space for emerging artisans. Umba’s MO isn’t exactly about profitability but a movement to help its family of travelers. No wonder, they are highly revered within the music festival community.
As a traveling gypsy tent, flourishing doesn’t seem like an appropriate description, but one step inside Umba’s space will reconfigure your disposition. Colorful decorations of esoteric meaning line the walls for visual intrigue, while an inviting staff caters to find your wildest festival outfit. Even during the scorching mid-summer’s heat of Bonnaroo or Sonic Bloom, the set of fans and a couch lend to a comfortable waiting environment when the full-body mirror is overrun with ecstatic patrons.
Umba does so well in the festival culture because its foundation holds a similar approach to growth, working with artists that support each other through the reciprocity of family values. Noble is recognized as a savior for newly emerging talent, providing an outlet for hand-made esoteric trinkets, gypsy jewelry and neo-tribal apparel from dozens of small time craftsmen. By working directly with designers like Warrior Within and Pacha Play who hand-craft sexy, sleek attire and artists like Gonzo Gear and Amanda Sage who decorate clothing with beautiful images, a young entrepreneur’s work can spread far beyond their personal means and become an outlet for financial stability.
That is the heart of Umba’s business structure: a clothing and jewelry store caring more for the up-and-coming artisan than selling clothing exclusively from their own resources. It’s a close-nit group of fashion designers and jewelry makers expressing their heart and soul through the fashion world.
In 2008 the Umba storefront officially opened on the Pearl St. Mall underneath Haagen Daz. Business began to take off with the local “hair-feather” trend. Since many younger women in Boulder loathed the idea of wearing brightly colored hair accessories, selling them not only attracted their business, but also caught the attention of local artists looking for a place to sell their work. For Noble, it became a way to fill extra space inside the store: every inch covered in shiny jewels, vibrant yoga-wear or local art.
Before long, Umba moved to its current home on Broadway, and that’s when Noble reached out to her sister, Bartkowiak to join her endeavors. Bartkowiak and Noble have created a well-balanced dynamic, working as a team to facilitate good relations with their festival family. Ironically, Umba means “sisters” in Balinese, a perfect reflection of their coordination. With Bartkowiak’s help, Noble continues her life on the road searching out playful, artistic fashions, connecting directly with the designers and extending the Umba family. Bartkowiak, on the other hand, manages the store in Boulder, facilitating a warm, accepting environment for patrons and local designers.
Like Noble, Bartkowiak wants to help struggling artists find a shelf for their work claiming that, “If I have room, even if I don’t have room, I pack it in here to give everyone a try”
Over the past 10 years, Noble has cultivated a gypsy’s dream world: a one-stop shop for the cutest hippy apparel. She will do whatever it takes to keep the store shelves stocked and the festival tent full of wearable treasures. She’ll shop the festival market at the end of the weekend to buy wholesale from vendors. And she never misses her yearly trip to Thailand where she can visit the markets and hand-pick unique fashion accessories.
When it comes to gypsy-wear, Noble knows what sells! But most importantly, she now has a strong, inspiring family. A group of brothers and sisters working and celebrating in harmony. A place that never stops moving, but always feels like home.UmbaLove