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Karrysafe

The Karrysafe bags and body accessories offer a range of socially responsive street accessories designed to appeal to young people as well as all commuter generations.

What is it?

The Karrysafe bags and body accessories offer a range of socially responsive street accessories designed to appeal to young people as well as all commuter generations. The first collection of bags and accessories was launched in Summer 2002, and aimed to help users adopt a stealth approach and carry their belongings safely, or under clothes, secure without looking criminal.

The Karrysafe bag range incorporates high-performance features including electronic alarms and materials such as Cordura, a durable textile resistant to abrasion. Both systems can be found in the Karryfront Screamer laptop bag. The built-in alarm will start ‘screaming’ at 138 decibels if the bag is forcibly removed from its owner. The Karrysafe Scroll Top Backpacks and Scroll Top Shoulder Bags, feature a Velcro scrolling closure that avoids dipping, as the audible unfastening noise will alert the owner if opened. Phonesafe offers a hands-free way of carrying a mobile phone and is slim enough to be worn on wrist under sleeves, with pockets for cards and keys. Bodysafe, reinvents the money belt, as sexy lingerie offering stealth fashion and a hands free way of carrying valuables.

During the collection’s launch season (2002-4), Karrysafe products were available via Selfridges, the Karrysafe Shop in London; Fonehouse stores and the Karrysafe.com website, which also featured free personal protection information for those who accessed the site.

How our research led to new design?

In 2001 Lorraine Gamman, Design Against Crime Research Centre Director, obtained funding from the Design Council/ Home Office and collaborated with clothing designers Adam Thorpe and Joe Hunter, directors and founders of Vexed Generation, to develop the Karrysafe line of anti-theft bags and wearable accessories, to a professional standard, to communicate the potential of security to new audiences.

Gamman had previously curated the Don’t Tempt Me exhibition, shown in Milan and also in Barcelona in 2000, which featured anti-theft bag-design studio projects by students from MA Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins. This received strong press reviews, but a slow response from industry. Gamman approached Hunter and Thorpe on the strength of their previous socially aware street clothing, and their One Strap Rucksuck design. They had already experimented with anti slash materials, and were well regarded for this work. She persuaded them to engage with the design against crime user and abuser centered design process, to deliver the Karrysafe range with the DAC team. In fact, Gamman and DACRC researcher/designer Marcus Willcocks, were able to feed advice from crime prevention experts and personal safety advisors, to Vexed Generation, as well as hosting interdisciplinary design critiques, to inform the responses and iterate “improved” design solutions, based on the expert feedback.

The resulting Karrysafe designs captured the imagination of the newspapers when the range was launched in July 2002, by focusing on addressing user needs, as well as providing deterrents to potential abusers. In fact, positive reviews of the design appeared in most national newspapers, including The Guardian who suggested that the “war on street crime gets fashionable”.

Why our design approach constitutes “social design” or “social innovation”?

“There is an element of social responsiveness in much of our work” say Vexed Generation “we create urban utility wear, but try to avoid ‘techno warrior’ stereotypes.” The Karrysafe bags and accessories designed to resist attempts of theft and discourage street robbers and pick pockets, by specifically incorporating design features to resist dipping, lifting, slashing and grabbing, common perpetrator techniques, were delivered in six months by this collaboration between the DACRC team and Vexed Generation, aiming at a broader market than their usual clothing designs.

What are the strengths of design aspect of the project?

The Karrysafe bags and wearable accessories pioneered issues of self-protection and were the first-known of their product genre to purposefully integrate specialist crime prevention advice into their designs, while simultaneously offering a range of stylish, practical and user friendly products.

What are the weaknesses of design aspect of the project?

The range is currently not in production (2010), although there is portfolio of further designs that could be taken to market with the right interest and support from partner organisations. Design Against Crime and Vexed Generation need to identify the right commercial outlet, with strong distribution channels to take a new range of anti theft stealth fashion products to new audiences and users.