In just a few years, Apple's iPod MP3 players have gone from geeky gadget to "gotta have it."
But having the pricey gizmo may no longer be enough. This fall, couture designers from Chanel to Marc Jacobs are offering cases in calfskin, signature canvas, you name it - sometimes at more than $300 a pop.
But is the average MP3 junkie ready to dish out more for a posh case than for the player itself?
"Over the last year or two, the market has shifted on iPod cases," says Dean Constantine of XtremeMac of Weston, Fla. "It used to be that protection for the iPod was the most important thing. ... Leather cases that provide padding and soft interior materials were what people craved. Now, people just want something stylish, and many own multiple cases for their iPods."
As a result, Constantine says, designers are going after a different breed of shopper.
"Their target market is a fashionista who owns an iPod," Constantine says. "I doubt that people who wouldn't normally buy Coach or Kate Spade items would shell out $100 to $300 for an iPod case made by them. On the other hand, the Coach addicts out there will absolutely shelve their existing $30 leather case and run out to buy the new Coach case."
IPods range in price from $99 for the 512MB shuffle, which holds 120 songs, to $399 for the Mac daddy 60GB player, which holds 15,000 songs. Designer-case costs include $55 for a leather wristlet case from Kate Spade and $230 for the Black Tie iPod case by Christian Dior.
According to Newsweek, fashion powerhouse Karl Lagerfeld stores his personal music collection among 60 iPods (at last count), each laser coded to tell what tunes are inside. On a runway in Milan last year, he showed his affinity for the players by unveiling the $1,500 Fendi Juke Box, a bread-box-sized bag built to carry 12 iPods.
"I don't know anyone who has (a designer iPod Case), but I think anything fun and designer is worth the big bucks," says Melissa Payne, a 22-year-old University of Florida senior. "If you have the money, why not get one?"
Payne says she has shopped for Gucci's Guccissima iPod case ($235) on eBay, but hasn't found one at the right price from a trusted dealer. "I personally wouldn't buy one (at full retail price) because that's how much my iPod cost - $200," Payne says.
University of Florida professor and iPod enthusiast David Carlson says that among his students and colleagues, the most popular MP3 player accessories are simple cases - for protection and for clipping the player to a belt or armband - and upgraded headphones.
Aime Palmer writes for the Palm Beach Post.