It was only a matter of time before someone invented a smart handbag. Today, Tracey Hummel officially debuted her luxury handbag label Bee & Kin, fusing two seemingly different worlds—fashion and tech—together. Her bags (there are five distinct styles along with tiny pouches) are all equipped with two unique buttons: a built-in flashlight and a button that connects to your phone. It's the second that's pretty genius.
Via your phone's bluetooth, the bag's smart button connects to an app called Flic, which you use to program all the various functions you want your button to be able to execute, like ordering an Uber or sending a text message. It can also make your phone ring, which means you can now get away from that bad date without begging your bestie to call you with a fake emergency halfway through. The luxury bags range from $500 to $725 and, while they are driven by tech, they still feel feminine and wearable to fashion lovers.
Growing up, Hummel always had one foot in tech (her dad worked in the space and she studied a mix of entrepreneurship and computer information systems in college) and one foot in fashion, specifically production and design. Prior to launching her own brand, she worked at Tory Burch as a production assistant.
"Ever since I was a little girl [designing my own handbags] was what I wanted to do," Hummels says. "After college, I went into the fashion/corporate world to get a better understanding of how everything worked in order to eventually bring my brand, Bee & Kin, to life." In fact, two of the bags in her line, the sidekick and hero tote, were the very first designs she sketched back in high school. "It's so exciting to have those come to life after many years," she shares.
Having let those ideas simmer for so long, it's clear everything Hummel does is intentional, not accidental—from the bag's smart buttons to its structural design and spandex lining (to protect your gear) to even the brand's name: Her last name, Hummel, when translated from German, means bumblebee. All the accessories feature a hexagon shape—a honeycomb, if you will. "This is all pretty much a nod to my heritage and upbringing," she says. "The honeycomb is a reminder of my family's hardworking background."
Hummel wanted to include a light in the bag from the start. "I was going to and from work and constantly looking in my bag for a metrocard," she recalls. "I would dig for 10 minutes and people are like, 'Are you good?' I’m like, "I’m great, just looking for something in my bag," she laughs. From there, the brand wanted to show the breadth of fashion and function by incorporating the shortcuts. Hummel says they're even currently working on some prototypes that integrate a sleek, luxurious wireless phone charger into the bag.
But does it work? I had the opportunity to test out one of Hummel's Bee & Kin bags before the launch to see exactly how helpful the smart button was in my everyday life.
I chose the expert tote in black since it seemed the best for work. After downloading the Flic app—which was free and easy to install, plus intuitive to use—I added the functions I wanted my tote bag's smart button to do. There were many dozens functions to choose from, which were broken up into categories including fitness, phone control, media, and games.
Two quick FYIs: I discovered your bluetooth has to be on at all times, so the bag's smart button can be connected to your Flic app. Some features, like share your location, cost Flic credits (which you pay for) because it uses a third-party SMS service—a slight bummer. Still, several of the functions were free and quite useful; other's not as much.
Find My Phone
I am always misplacing my phone, so this was one feature I was eager to try. When I'm in a hurry to leave the house and don't know where my phone is, I go to my bag, press the smart button and wait for a sound to go off (it sounds like an alarm). The noise makes it super easy to locate your phone. This feature can double as your "escape a bad date" false ringtone. (On Android devices, there's actually an escape a bad date function in the Flic app, which you can pair to your bag's smart button. That feature is coming for iPhones.)
Hang Up Call
This is helpful when you're in a car or doing something that requires your undivided attention. You can easily reach into your bag and double tap the button to hang up incoming calls without ever picking up your phone.
Order an Uber
The Uber function was finicky for me—after a week, it still won't connect to my app—but I like the idea of being able to call a car by clicking a button in my tote bag. The brand is currently working with Flic to improve user function. FYI: You have to preset your pick-up and drop-off location in the Flic app first.
Opening My Camera
As long as you have your camera app open in the background of your iPhone, you can hold the bag's smart button down and it'll automatically snap a photo for you. Though this was not a feature I used regularly, I could see it being useful if you're trying to take a group photo or something.
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