Right now the temperature is starting to warm up in New York. However, it's inevitable: winter will be here again before we know it.
And every winter, I'm freezing to death because at some point in time I wore the wrong shoes. Like that time I was going to Philadelphia and needed a headphone splitter so my husband and I could co-watch a movie on the bus ride down. I spent the better part of an hour searching for one while the snow came down around me. All I found was that my boots had sprung a leak and that apparently the only place to buy dry socks in TriBeCa is at the Equinox where you will spend too much money for them (do rich people not need socks?!).
This year I even bought fleece leggings to keep warm and be able to make my favorite dresses work year-round. I thought I was really clever with the fleece leggings—they are so comfy!—but they get really, really warm when you are indoors most of the day. And on a long day wearing these tights with a sweater dress, I just found myself really uncomfortably sweaty.
Now that it's officially springtime, it is probably the time to think about my past poor choices opportunities to buy the right winter gear. And that is where Katie Lefkowitz comes in; this California native turned Harvard Business School grad feels the pain and has created the lundí boot. This boot is attractive, appropriate for a professional setting and can keep your feet warm and toasty during a snowstorm via controls within the companion app.
Curious to know more about this innovative idea, I asked Katie to share some insights about the product:
JG: While it looks like you had the idea, you are working with your father on the product design given his engineering background — can you tell me more about how the idea and this father daughter collabo emerged?
KL: Absolutely! So – I came up with the idea for lundí when I moved from California to Boston for school. While I loved my leather boots, they left me with constantly chilly toes. I figured — there’s got to be a better way, other than wearing clunky boots! I recognized that this is a woman-centric problem that must be solved with a woman in the drivers seat. Also, I recognized that both fashion & wearables/tech must come together to solve this problem. I was searching for engineers around Boston to start collaborating, when I realized that my father actually has a ton of capabilities in this space. He is a nuclear engineer, and until then I hadn't thought through the heat-transfer expertise he has to uniquely solve this issue! Now, I never thought I'd be working with my dad on anything – let alone a business – but he has been extremely excited at this concept, and we've since enlisted the support of additional engineers to make this dream a reality.
JG: When I think of wearable warm-ables (is that a thing?), my first thought is the electric blanket that I always imagined would someday burst into flames. Can you share some insights about how your product works? What measures will you take to ensure safety and that the boots hold up to tough concrete jungles?
KL: Not to worry! We've thought all of the saftey issues through. Firstly, we have built the heating and battery components into a small module of the boot – this is encapsulated in materials that make it waterproof, and also shock-proof up to 1100 lbs! Moreover, electric components are completely contained in this material! It's important to note that we've designed the mechanism to operate in an extremely energy efficient manner. What this translates to is only needing tiny amounts of voltage to power the system! Think of it like the exact opposite of a hairdryer, which requires tons of voltage. Our design has been powered in a way that is incredibly user-centric, to ensure everyone can enjoy the power of lundís safely.
JG: Most of us have to charge a lot of devices on a regular basis (phones, watches, laptops, tablets, headphones, etc). Do you think folks will warm up (pun intended) to the idea of charging their boots on a regular basis? How do you plan to make that necessary part of the experience with your product frictionless?
KL: I completely understand your concern around charging, and this has been a critical issue as we've designed the boots thus far. Our system leverages inductive – or, wireless – charging. Users just slip an insert (boot 'shaper') into the boots to let charging begin. Think of those cardboard cutouts that tend to come in boots you've ordered online. Magnets allow the two pieces of the inductive charger to find each other quickly and easily! To make matters even easier moving forward, we're developing a simple charging mat. This way, you'll just take off your boots and put them on the mat after you're done using them. Many people do this anyways, to make sure you don't drag dirt from the outside all over your house – so it's a win/win!
JG: Sometimes the best products emerge from solving for an unmet market need, do you think temperature controlled boots are just the start of more technology-driven product design in industries targeting women primarily?
KL: I could not agree more with this sentiment! I think one of the biggest issues in the wearable space thus far is – frankly – they're just ugly! Many of these companies have simply taken a great technology, and put it into a product that is bearable to wear. You can find hundreds of articles mocking the uselessness of companies attempts to make things "pretty." It's not as simple as making a "pink" version for women and calling it a day. Women's needs must be deeply understood if we are to provide tangible benefits! Think about the issue lundí is addressing: cold feet. If you look at men vs. women on this problem, there's actually a deep divide! Around 15% of women have Raynaud's phenomenon – a medical condition that causes them to get poor circulation to their extremities. Beyond this, ALL women have thinner skin on their feet vs. men. This contributes to the fact that women tend to fall 2x more than men in the winter! This is because once you lose key sensitivities in your feet, it becomes much easier to lose your balance. Now, that's not to say men wouldn't enjoy this technology, but women simply have more of a need for it! We MUST think about what issues women face in their everyday lives, and build technology that helps them as well.
Amen to that!
If you are interested in reading more about the idea or getting your own pair of these boots, check out the lundí Kickstarter campaign here.