September 8, 2005

Clothing Makers Latch on to iPod Craze

LAS VEGAS -- With no end in sight to the iPod craze, everyday clothing makers are offering a growing selection of apparel designed so consumers can easily carry their digital music players without getting their wires tangled.

For years, sports apparel manufacturers and haute couture brands have sold Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod-friendly products, but now mainstream clothing manufacturers are hoping to cash in on the trend.

Los Angeles-based manufacturer Kenpo, for example, made a big push at the Magic Marketplace fashion trade show in Las Vegas last week as it showcased a line of light- and heavier-weight outdoor jackets with the iPod control on the outside sleeve.

Kenpo, which has a license with Apple, offers its jackets with a fabric insert and a built-in chip so that consumers can change the controls of their iPods on the outside of the garment's sleeve while the music player is tucked safely away inside.

A men's anorak and a polar-fleece and nylon jacket in black and stainless steel will be first available at Macy's stores in San Francisco in November for prices ranging from $275 to


The jackets are only compatible with iPod, but Kenpo says it may eventually offer clothing that functions with other MP3 players and electronic gadgets in an increasingly tech-driven world.

Kenpo Vice President Joel Bernstein said buyers visiting the company's booth at the trade show were initially confused by the jackets -- until they realized the potential marriage between mainstream fashion and technology.

"If you're going to start anywhere, you start with the iPod," Bernstein said.

That's logical, considering Apple says it has sold more than 21 million iPods, and industry analysts estimate the brand accounts for about three-quarters of all digital music players sold in the United States this year.

There are also more than 1,000 accessories made specifically for the iPod, ranging from high-end fashion cases to speaker systems to automobile integration kits.

The initial buzz surrounding iPod's 2001 launch spurred haute couture fashion houses like Christian Dior, Chanel and others to create luxury cases for the player. Germany's Karl Lagerfeld designed for Fendi a $1,500 gilded carrying case for multiple iPods. Gucci offered a more modest $200 leather-trimmed sling.

Two years ago, Burton Snowboards unveiled what it called the first waterproof snowboarding jacket compatible with the iPod.

But now mainstream clothing companies are looking to exploit iPod's popularity.

Scott Jordan, chief executive of Ketchum, Idaho-based Scottevest Inc. has designed what he calls a "technology-enabled" casual clothing line -- from lambskin leather jackets to cargo pants and cotton hoodies -- with strategically placed holes and fabric channels to keep wires out of sight and out of mind.

"We are grabbing on the coattails of the success of the iPod generation," Jordan said.

The iPod's popularity has also encouraged others to tie their products to the music players. San Diego-based H20audio, for example, sells waterproof iPod cases and headsets retailing for $149.95 and related accessories like armbands and swim belts.

The products are safe in up to 4 meters (13.2 feet) of water, including hot tubs, pools, the surf and snow, said spokesman Tom Harvey, who added that Apple was supporting and encouraging outside vendors.

And with iPods turning from trendy fashion accessories to a must-have everyday item, companies say shoppers want clothing that meets their technology needs.

"People are really getting it -- finally," Scottevest's Jordan said.