The business of bicycle fashion and safety
What was initially a submission as an Industrial Design Masters thesis in 2005, brought about the business now called Hövding which means “….chief/chieftain/leader in Swedish” says Terese Alstin one of the two founding members of Hövding. “We wanted to choose a Swedish word to show the origin of the product.” Terese continues.
At the time when they began to work on their thesis Alstin states, “The law that had just been introduced in Sweden making bicycle helmets compulsory for children up to the age of 15, this had triggered a heated debate on whether it should be extended to include adult cyclists too. To people like us, who wouldn't be seen dead in a polystyrene helmet, the thought that we might be forced to wear one by law was a cause for concern. Developing a bicycle helmet that people would be happy to put on looked like a much better way to go than legislation forcing people to wear one or else. We realised that our industrial design master thesis was the perfect place to find out whether the traditional bicycle helmet could be improved on. In early market research we found out that cyclists wanted a discrete bicycle helmet (preferably invisible!), which wouldn't ruin their hairdo and with the possibility to change the look to match different clothes. This consumer feedback was the inspiration for the idea of an airbag helmet.”
Hang on! An airbag helmet that is invisible?! Surely not however checking out the Hövding website than seeing is truly believing. The Helmet at first glance does not exist, what looks like a scarf or clothing accessory is merely the fashionable housing or collar for a bicycle head protective creation. In the event of an accident an airbag just like in a motor car inflates from the collar forming a protective mould around the wearers head. The airbag is deployed by sensors that pick up the cyclist’s abnormal movements in an accident. It provides enough support to help absorb a shock to the head. Stylish, modern and clever the collar is crafted by using a mix of a shell, a gas inflator, sensors, an airbag and a “centre front” zip which also carries the on/off switch for the helmet to work. Further there is a battery setup which is USB charged along with a “Black Box” which supports data to provide clarity or insight into an accident, yes just like in an aircraft!
The science, specifications, engineering and certification that goes into a project like this has already taken seven years of development for the Swedish team which has grown in numbers from the initial upstart.
“There are now 16 of us working at Hövding, each of us bringing in our own unique specialist expertise. We have a R&D department with mathematicians, electrical engineers and airbag experts; a design department with industrial designers and pattern designers. Further we have relevant customer services, marketing, production and finance departments. We look for brave people who are not afraid to question how things have been done before, and who are curious enough to take on the challenge of investigating if the impossible could in fact be possible!” motivates Alstin.
The Hövding website is jam packed with stunning designs of this modern safety couture which includes media of the testing of the product, the website is worth a visit just to view the functionality of the helmet. From the outset the team has put forward a concept that is futuristic yet plausible, mixing the hard work of traditional business skills and combining technology that is now the new age of modern business.
Alstin comments that “Throughout the journey we have met quite a few sceptics, who have told us that what we were trying to do is impossible.”- they have indeed proven otherwise! The growth of the company has been positioned to become a household name however the key is to build the company ahead of rushing the growth process which is done by maintaining an emphasis on product satisfaction.
“One step at a time. Cycling is a global phenomenon and the product is needed in every part of the world. Hövding answers to the demands of modern urban cyclists - allowing people to protect themselves in traffic without sacrificing their personal styles in the process.”
By the looks of things Hövding is on track to becoming a benchmark company, proving that with creativity and technology a lot can be done to make the planet a more enterprising and safer place to cycle!
You can find out more about Hövding on: http://www.hovding.com