Sawako Furuno designs helmets for style-conscious cyclists in faux crocodile and delicate prints. They are sold worldwide not only in bike shops, but also among accessories in fashion boutiques. The Tokyo-born architect recently moved with her husband and children from London to New York City, where Furuno is finding new inspiration for her line (above) as she explores the city by bicycle. This is the third in our Velojoy Questionnaire series that focuses on life on two wheels in New York City.
How did you get started making helmets?
In London, I was an architect who was commuting every day. I must confess that I used to not wear helmets. However, having witnessed a few road accidents, I realized that [riding without one] was not a risk worth taking.
Being style-conscious, I did not want to look uncool with sports helmets. The helmet was going to be part of my everyday outfit. I care so much about the rest of my fashion, dress, shoes: Why not helmets? Hence I ended up making them myself.
My products have been what I really love to wear myself, and it’s been fantastic to share that love with so many people around the world.
What bike do you ride?
I used to ride a beautiful Pashley in London. Really romantic and loved it, but it was a little too heavy for me. So when I moved to New York City, I decided to bring a new plum Bobbin Bramble, which is a bit lighter. Bobbin is a good friend of mine; their bikes are classy, fun and cute. I am happy to have a piece of Europe with me here.
I also love Citi Bike.
How do you handle bike storage in New York City?
I am sooo lucky to have dedicated bike storage within our building.
Your secret to rolling in comfort and style?
I found that vintage dresses are often good, not too tight and the perfect length, just under the knees. I am lucky enough to have a variety of helmets to choose from, and I enjoy picking one depending on my mood.
What’s your favorite route or spot to visit by bicycle?
I’m still new to the city, but I find the West Village very relaxing to cycle through. Because of the tree-lined side streets, it reminds me of Europe. Then when I cross busy avenues I feel very excited to be in this vibrant city. Also I love the Hudson River Greenway at sunset. Breathtakingly beautiful.
Greenwich Village/West Village where I live and work is cafe central! My recent obsession has been Whynot Coffee on Christopher Street, but News Cafe on University Place and Stumptown on 8th Street also sell good coffee. I am cafe-crawling every day at the moment.
What’s the one thing NYC needs to do to get more people on bikes?
I have been seeing a lot of proposals for bike lanes and safer road designs, which would be fantastic. But that can take quite a while. So I would say road safety education. NYC car traffic is very aggressive, but it doesn’t help that cyclists behave like NYC pedestrians, ignoring traffic lights. (Should it be called ‘jay cycling’?)
When cyclists begin to follow basic rules, it will help drivers and pedestrians to know what to expect, making the roads safer for everyone.
If you could ride with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Coco Channel. I think she would like a black crocodile helmet. We could both dress in black and white plus pearls, cycle around the Village, stop to have coffee and a croissant. Maybe I could even get business advice!
If she is too busy, I would choose my two daughters, Koko (age 3 1/2 years) and Connie (age 1). At the moment they are a bit too small for a proper ride, but they are already my best friends and love cafes as much as I do.