ONE-OF-A-KINDS, FOR A CAUSE
Byline: Scott Malone
NEW YORK — Americans desperate to buy a Levi’s jacket with built-in sound capabilities have a chance this week. But just one.
A Levi’s jacket wired by Canadian men’s wear designer Douglas Mandel received the highest bid — $500 — at a silent auction of 29 customized jackets held at the Workshop N.Y. trade show in Manhattan this week.
While the show closed Tuesday, online bidding will continue at Elle.com through Friday.
This jacket’s capabilities are a little different from the Industrial Clothing Design Plus model that Levi’s will be rolling out in Europe this fall, which will retail for $900 to $1,000. While it includes a built-in MP3 digital sound player, it has no cellular phone.
And, rather than headphones, it has speakers.
Mandel, who designs the Kamkyl line, explained that he opted for speakers because he wanted to allow the wearer to exercise more control over his or her environment. Pushing the ambiance message home, Mandel has preprogrammed the MP3 with sound effects, rather than music. At the show, the jacket’s repertoire included a windstorm, a children’s party and, for those who just can’t get enough of it, ambient noise from an airport.
In a city where commuters are often subject to one another’s personal entertainment choices, Mandel said he wasn’t that worried that New Yorkers would be too modest to use the speakers.
“A big part of society walks around with their ghetto blasters or their Walkmen on loud,” he pointed out.
The jacket also includes a built-in microphone and digital delay effect, which allows the wearer to create a personal echo.
While Mandel’s jacket had the highest bid as of the close of the show, other designers’ creations had also pulled in multi-hundred-dollar offers. A jacket featuring check trim from Maria Basaldu, the Los Angeles-based designer who produces the Ynnub line, garnered a $300 bid.
In total, $3,600 in bids had been made on the 29 jackets by the close of the show, according to a spokeswoman for the event. The proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund at New York’s Parsons School of Design.
While Mandel tried to push the limits with his jacket — though not as far as some designers, who turned theirs into corsets or rags — Margie Tsai, who produces an eponymous women’s sportswear line, went with a classic theme.
She decorated her jacket with an American-flag motif.
“With Levi’s, what can you think of?” she said. “Levi’s is so American and that’s what it says.”