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Sun & Shade: steady growth in nautical upholstery


With more than 5,000 meters of fabric processed for cushions, awnings, blackout nets, sponges, and more, Sun & Shade – an upholstery company specializing in the nautical sector – closed 2023 by confirming its steady growth throughout its 15 years of existence. Founded in 2009 by Renato De Pascale, the company has evolved from a simple awning made by De Pascale, a boating enthusiast, into a thriving business based in Genoa.

The Laboratory “Today, Sun & Shade is a complete upholstery service,” emphasizes De Pascale. “In our 300 sq.m workshop, we can create anything our customers need: technical summer covers, winter covers, awnings, shade covers, bimini tops, spray hoods, lazy bags, boat covers, rudder covers, porthole covers, cushions, drapes, upholstery, carpets, and rugs.” A new cutting plotter has also been added to the workshop, saving time and fabric by cutting multiple pieces simultaneously and optimizing material usage to minimize waste.

Team and Patents Eight people work at Sun & Shade under the leadership of Gabriella Mordocco, the laboratory manager and the company’s first employee. Business and public relations are managed by Renato De Pascale, an entrepreneur always on the move and open to new ideas. The latest innovation is a patent filed in December 2022 for pillow stopper discs. This simple yet important accessory solves the problem of securing cushioning on the deck without drilling holes in the boat.

A Work Also Made of Synergies Sun & Shade’s growth over the past 15 years is also due to forming new partnerships. De Pascale strongly believes in the importance of developing synergies with other businesses. The workshop welcomes collaborations with colleagues and companies engaged in complementary activities. This approach has led to significant partnerships with companies in Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia, and Tuscany, allowing Sun & Shade to expand and diversify its business, support others, and outsource part of its own work.

For example, Sun & Shade has become a key reference for a large upholstery company in Lombardy, assisting with product assembly and setting up new projects, including onboard inspections and measurements. This collaboration has connected the company with various

technical departments at construction sites, involving them in other projects, particularly the supply of covers, awnings, and shade drapes.

Additionally, for a company that supplies cruise ships, Sun & Shade produces between 1,300 and 1,500 bags of Olona canvas for laundry service each year, outsourcing part of the production to Tuscany, known for its home linens. Today, Sun & Shade’s clients include individuals, yacht and superyacht owners and captains, and increasingly shipyards.

Customized High-End Products

Sun & Shade specializes in high-end custom products, focusing on quality over quantity. Renato De Pascale personally visits docks, boards the boats, and collaborates with owners, captains, and technical offices to study and execute each project meticulously. The company’s tailored products are crafted to meet individual customer requirements, emphasizing quality and attention to detail rather than price.

“Our spray hoods, for example,” De Pascale notes, “feature special devices: besides the ‘caps’ that protect the clearcoats (made from leftover fabric to avoid waste), we create mesh pockets inside the spray hood to store a book or other small items. We also cover the visible seams on the inside. In the laboratory, we have a band-cutting machine that we use to make fabric strips, which we then apply like frames around the transparencies to hide the seams. This painstaking work requires time, precision, and the ability to sew and turn the bead. These details, along with the high-end materials we use and meticulous ‘modeling,’ make all the difference.”

Experience Matters

“I have been sailing and racing for many years,” De Pascale explains, “and this experience has proven extremely useful in my work. Compared to a traditional upholsterer, I know what is needed most on board and how to accomplish it.” For instance, shadow awnings appear simple but require special cutting and reinforcement. “In shade awnings, the reinforcements in the corners (the ones that attach to the poles) are similar to those found on sails. They are made of three layers of fabric, and a Dyneema line is inserted inside, a material common on sailboats for its tensile strengths, which are much higher than polyester. This way, the awning performs its job and stands the test of time.”

Sun & Shade
Founded by Renato De Pascale in 2009, Sun & Shade is based in Genoa, Italy. The company specializes in upholstery and technical covers in the nautical sector but is also active in civil building and interior and exterior decoration. It has a tailor-made handcrafted production that caters not only to shipowners and captains but to shipyards as well. Its flagship products are spray hoods and shade canopies: these are complemented by covers and lazy bags, bimini tops and bow and stern canopies, and the whole range of on-board cushions, sofas, carpeting and interior upholstery. The materials selected by Sun & Shade for its products are all of the highest quality and latest generation: for example, the micro-perforated nets are fireproof and class 1 certified, which – applied as a screen on the windows – are able to lower the heat transfer between the irradiated and shaded parts by up to 38%.

Diskettes to keep from puncturing the boat

For several years, every upholsterer has used small standard disks attached to the deck and to which another is “hooked” with female Velcro sewn onto the cushion to secure the outer cushioning.

“One day,” De Pascale recounts, “I was in the technical office of Sanlorenzo and met a childhood friend who said: ‘Why don’t you find a system to attach the disk to the deck without having to drill it?’ With the cooperation of a bi-adhesive company, I selected the suitable material,tested it for a year, and then sent it to Sanlorenzo quality control, which approved the product; from there, it all started with the other yards as well.”

It is a small thing, but not insignificant. “Suffice it to say that a 60 m boat can have as many as 130 cushions, and on each cushion, you need a minimum of 6-7 disks: the math of how many holes in the deck you avoid is easily done!”

In December 2022 Sun & Shade filed the utility patent for Italy and can now commercialize these disks. “Before the patent I used to buy packs of 200 pillow stopper disks every so often; today I buy and resell as many as 6,000 disks every 3-4 months. I diversified my business.”