An Interview with Mara Perlmutter, Founder of Trelawear
By Connie Zuckerman
Chances are if you (or a loved one) are an older adult (especially one living alone), you’ve given some thought to purchasing a “personal emergency alert system (PERS),” i.e., an emergency “call button” worn around your neck to alert someone in case you’ve had a fall. You may have even seen television commercials showing an older woman down on the floor of her home, moaning for help after she’s taken a tumble. It’s a frightening image- one creating fear and dread- perhaps everyone’s worst nightmare about growing older. But it also creates a sense of shame and embarrassment, as most of us don’t want to admit we’re susceptible to such a risk, even if we’re willing to admit our balance is not what it used to be. So, how do you reconcile the risk of such a fall with the reality that you’re embarrassed to wear this sort of device?
Mara Perlmutter may have the solution for you.
Mara is the founder of Trelawear Inc., a manufacturer of stylish and discreet personal emergency alert devices that combine high fashion with safety and security. With an extensive background in the jewelry business, and having worked with some of the most coveted jewelry manufacturers around the world, Mara has developed beautiful pendants resembling high-end classic jewelry, but with an emergency call button tucked discreetly on the back. The Trelawear device allows you to look fashionable and of-the-moment yet be secure that should you fall, you’ll be able to access help immediately.
Recently, agebuzz Co-Founder and Managing Editor Connie Zuckerman sat down with Mara to learn more about personal emergency devices, and how Trelawear provides a new option for women looking for style and safety in one piece of jewelry.
CZ: Mara, thank you for taking the time to help agebuzz readers understand personal emergency response systems, and more specifically, your unique Trelawear products. First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the business of developing a new type of personal emergency response device?
MP: I’d be happy to. I began my career at Saks Fifth Avenue and caught the jewelry bug. I became a designer jewelry/watch buyer and took on increased merchandising responsibilities during my 15-year tenure. Subsequently, I was recruited as Group President of the $250 million Jones NY jewelry group leading brands including 9West, Anne Klein, Givenchy, & Judith Jack among others. I am what is commonly referred to in the fashion industry as a “jewelry maven.” I have built a successful career as both a retailer and wholesaler over the last 25+ years before I founded Trelawear.
Three years ago, when my beautiful fashionista mom suddenly became more housebound, my dad wanted her to wear an emergency alert pendant. He bought 5 different types and my mom refused to wear any of them- they were unattractive, plastic pendants. She instinctively said to me, “Mara, you’ve been in the jewelry business over 25 years, can’t you make me something beautiful to wear in case of an emergency?” With that request, the idea of Trelawear was born (Trela is “alert” spelled backward).
CZ: When did you start Trelawear? How did you go about your design and development of the product? Many readers are not only going to be interested in your device but also your story as a later-in-life entrepreneur.
MP: I started Trelawear almost 4 years ago. With my terrific contacts in the jewelry business, I hired one of my leading designers and partnered with one of the best quality overseas jewelry manufacturers to initially develop our collection. I led the vision for design and my designer brought it to life. What sets Trelawear devices apart from other kinds of alert buttons are the focus on the detail of the design aesthetic first, and then our partnering with leading tech providers to ensure the product is 100% reliable.
CZ: Can you talk generally about the personal emergency response industry? I think many of us have somewhat distorted notions of these sorts of devices. What is the benefit of a personal emergency response device? How do we get around the stigma that many associate with such a device?
MP: The personal emergency response system industry (commonly referred to as PERS) was built on fear – fear of seniors falling while being alone with no access to help. The strategy of PERS companies has been to market their products to older people who have lost their independence and don’t care about the look of the device, just that it provides a reliable safety measure if needed in a time of an emergency. Of course, with 70% of the PERS users being female, Trelawear understands this strategy is a disconnect. We know that women of every age want to feel and look beautiful- and Trelawear is changing the narrative by offering attractive discreet devices that women are proud to wear on their clothing, not hidden underneath. There is no stigma wearing a Trelawear pendant because no one will have any idea it is a PERS device (unless you choose to share the secret!).
CZ: Tell us more specifically about Trelawear: What are your products like and how do they work? What happens if I’m not very tech-savvy? Is it difficult to set the device up? How does it know if I’ve fallen or otherwise need help? Whom does it alert if there’s a problem?
MP: The Trelawear collection was specifically designed for simplicity. It’s a 3 step process very similar to buying a cell phone. Step 1: You purchase a beautiful pendant from Trelawear.com. Step 2: You sign up for a monitoring service plan with Mobile Help (A leading provider of M-PERS-Mobile-Personal Emergency Response System) technology- at 1-800-914-8796, where a trained consultant will explain your different service options. Step 3: Upon receipt of the pendant and service equipment, you call Mobile Help, and their consultant will guide you through the 5-minute simple remote pairing process activated by pushing the button on the back of the Trelawear pendant. There are no annual fees or requirements. You can cancel your service at any time. Once your pendant is activated, you will have 24/7 US-based monitoring service available, and should you have a fall or emergency, the service will know who you are, where you are (through GPS tracking) and it will have all your emergency contacts.
CZ: Is it just for wearing at home or can I use it when I’m out and about?
MP: Trelawear pendants are made to be worn both outside and inside your home. As long as there is cell service (from any provider) your Trelawear pendant will work!
CZ: Please tell us about the specific designs and materials of the devices. Are they heavy to wear? Are there only necklaces or do you have any bracelets or pins?
MP: Currently, the Trelawear collection features 2 best selling shapes (cushion and round) of 30″ pendants offered in 2 metal finishes (12k micron gold plating or rhodium like slightly antiqued silvertone plating). Each model is available with 4 hand-cut faceted resin stones (opaque black, lapis blue, turquoise blue or white mother of pearl). Both styles come with an exclusive magnetic closure for ease of taking on and off. The pendants and chain necklaces are made of 100% brass and are of beautiful quality. They are nickel-safe and 100% hypoallergenic. They do have some weight, but for regular use, this has not been an issue for most women. In the future, we will be adding bracelets, belts, and eyewear to offer a complete range of accessories that provide safety with style.
CZ: What about if I’m in the shower (a likely place I may have a fall)? Is the device waterproof?
MP: Trelawear pendants are water-resistant but not designed to be worn in the shower or at bedtime. The monitoring system does come with a waterproof pendant that we recommend women wear and keep in the shower for safety. If your Trelawear pendant mistakenly gets a little wet, no worries- there should be no damage.
CZ: What about the cost? Is there an initial fee and then a monthly fee? Are there various subscription levels?
MP: The regular retail price of our pendants is $148 but we have a special offer to agebuzz readers of $55 off their first purchase by using the code AgeBuzz55. All orders have free delivery and come in a beautiful gift box. There is also a monthly monitoring service fee based upon the Mobile Help subscription service plan you select.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if the product is returned in its original unworn condition. Trelawear pendants have a 3-year battery warranty from the date of purchase. There is a limited warranty on the jewelry itself based upon proper use and care. The specific return/repair process is detailed on our www.trelawear.com website. The full collection is available on our website, where our entire collection is exclusively sold.
CZ: What about men- do you plan to roll out products for men who might also benefit from a stylish alert device?
MP: In the future, we will definitely be developing unisex belts and eyewear!
CZ: Any final points you think agebuzz readers should know about Trelawear?
MP: The most important thing about a PERS device is that no matter how well it works if a customer won’t wear it, it won’t work. Trelawear offers reliable and trusted safety with a style solution that women will want to wear. It makes them feel and look great while being safe and secure. Over the course of my career, I have always put a smile on women’s faces by creating beautiful jewelry. Now I am passionate about providing a “feel good” solution for aging women who care about both safety and style!
To find out more and see the full collection, please go to the Trelawear website and click here for some of the most frequently asked questions about Trelawear. And please head to the Trelawear Facebook page and Instagram account, to stay up to date with the latest news about Trelawear.
Please Note: If you purchase a Trelawear pendant using the special code in this post, agebuzz may receive a modest fee. This helps us cover our costs and ensures that agebuzz remains free for all readers. Thank you!