As we rush from place to place, sending emails on the hoof, constantly taking calls and firing off Whatsapp messages, most of us live in constant fear of our phone battery dying.
The bags we carry are too big and too heavy, brimming with cables, adapter plugs and power packs, to ensure that we are constantly reachable. Which means that I, like many women, have one shoulder permanently higher than the other and a future full of physiotherapy to look forward to.
Or maybe not.
A new brand has arrived at Bloomingdale’s Dubai that is offering a breathtakingly simple solution to our woes: a handbag that acts like a smart watch.
Gianoi is the brainchild of brothers Enrico and Raffaele Caroli, who have brought together their individual expertise in technology and fashion to create a tech-infused high-end handbag. When I meet Raffaele Caroli ahead of the bag’s UAE launch, he neatly sums up the concept: “It’s not just any other handbag; its what’s hidden that makes it interesting.”
The company name draws its inspiration from Janus, the Greek god of new beginnings, who had one face looking to the future and one looking to the past. The brothers decided that this was the perfect metaphor for what they were trying to do: draw together the often-disparate worlds of innovative technology and luxury. “We wanted to play with these two opposite worlds, which we believe are going to get closer and closer together," says Raffaele.
He explains where the idea first came from. “We saw that tech companies were starting [to create] wearable technology but they were doing it without looking at the aesthetic of the product. Smart watches are all rubber bands and not something a woman would wear. People think technology can only relate to men, but we believe it can relate to women. You just have to give women something they would be proud to wear.”
Looking at the elegant bag sitting in front of me, with its neat snakeskin handle and discreet hardware, I am curious to find out where the tech is hidden. Peering inside, I am expecting a clumsy battery pack but, instead, there is nothing. “We spent a lot of time making sure all the technology elements are hidden and built into the structure of the bag,” Raffaele explains.
So what exactly does the bag do? Aside from being well designed, lightweight and beautifully made (as one would expect from a piece of high fashion handcrafted in Italy), it will also charge your phone and notify you of incoming calls, as well as WhatsApp and Facebook messages.
“The handbag connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and we have developed an app that allows you to turn your handbag into a filter that notifies you about things that are important to you. You can decide that you want to be notified with a light blue colour every time you get a phone call . Then, when you receive a call, a soft pulsating blue light with show in the bag’s metal logo,” Raffaelle explains.
After downloading a free app from the Apple store (it is currently only available to iPhone users but an Android version is in production), notifications are set by assigning different colours to different functions. The bag will remember your choices and the logo will pulse with a coloured light to let you know when someone is trying to reach you. “The light will stay on for five minutes, unless you touch your phone, in which case the bag recognises that. The bag and phone are constantly communicating with each other.”
In addition, a discreet cable that extends from the bag can be used to charge your phone, and when the bag itself is out of power (after two phone charges), repowering it is as simple as standing it on a flat, black charging unit. “We could have just done a cable, but it didn’t feel luxurious or natural for a woman to do. So when you get back home, you put your bag down on it, and the next day it is charged again,” says Raffaelle.
“You can even check how much battery you have in your bag. Just tap on the logo, quite firmly as the bag needs to know you are asking a question, and it will show the lights as red to yellow to green. This is the first time you can interact with your bag.”
Despite being a very new company (it launched at Harvey Nichols in London in October), the brothers have spent five painstaking years bringing their idea to fruition. The final product, which comes in a range of colours, styles and shapes, and is priced at between Dh2,450 and Dh6,600, feels remarkably well thought out, and very intuitive to the needs of female users.
“We did forums with women about what technology they wanted, and the beauty of being a start-up business is we are small enough to be able to react and apply changes. We can update the bag like you update an app.”
A luxury bag that you can communicate with may seem like the stuff of sci-fi movies, but this is a perfect melding of the old and the new. Janus would be proud. However, it does give rise to a difficult decision. Do I get it in red or navy blue?