Business & Tech

Harvard startup plans a fashion accessory focused on safety

Sara de Zarraga and Quinn Fitzgerald set out in April with a twofold goal: help protect young women from sexual assault and change the way we talk about it.

The duo, both Harvard Business School students, wanted to create a device that women could wear, and jewelry fit the bill.

Flare Jewelry is a startup in the prototype stage in the Venture Incubation Program at the Harvard Innovation Lab.

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Fitzgerald said they are designing a small device that would discreetly fit inside bracelets and necklaces and connect to the wearer’s phone.

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The wearer could activate two different modes depending on her assessment of a threatening situation. In silent mode, a message would be sent to a predetermined list of contacts — friends, family, roommates, or others — asking them to give the wearer a call and check in.

The device would also allow contacts to determine the woman’s location via GPS. It could be used, for instance, in a situation in which the user is worried that someone is following her home.

Emergency mode would send contacts the user’s GPS location, with a message urging them to meet her immediately or call police. The device inside the jewelry would emit a loud alarm, designed to draw attention.

Users could also opt to share their location with other Flare wearers nearby through their phones to create a network of active bystanders.

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The founders frame the company as a way to put power in the hands of women.

“We’re very deliberate about the way we talk about [sexual assault],” Fitzgerald said. “This is something that we want people to feel proud to wear.”

Both women are survivors of assault and didn’t like the way other companies advertised assault prevention apps and products, which Fitzgerald likened to fear-mongering.

Their focus is on sexual assault prevention for young women but Fitzgerald and de Zarraga said they’ve been approached by others interested in the technology, including elderly women, travelers, and people with disabilities.

Both women are hopeful that Flare Jewelry will not only help women in a potentially dangerous moment, but create a community. They plan to support organizations educating women about sexual assault with a portion of their profits.

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“We’ll be the first to say that Flare is not going to solve the underlying problems of assault,” de Zarraga said. “We’re strong proponents of figuring out a solution to that problem . . . that involves better education, more knowledge about what’s actually happening out there, and input from people who have been through these situations.”

Martha Schick can be reached at martha.schick@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MarthaSchick.