Pros: Beautiful iPod cotton fabric fashion cases with strong Japanese influence, great attention to iPod’s screen, controls, and ports.
Cons: Top and bottom of iPods are lightly protected, slight handmade fabric construction artifacts.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Truth be told, fashion cases for the iPod rarely excite us, and that’s part of the reason that we’ve adopted a special grading system just for such accessories. It’s a lot easier for a company to stitch together a few vaguely interesting pieces of cloth in an iPod-friendly shape than to actually take the time to cater to the iPod’s unique control requirements, ports, and lines. And it’s far, far easier to use one piece of plain fabric than to source multiple materials, let alone really interesting ones.
Six new Kimono cases from Miyavix – formally called the Cloth and Leather iPod and iPod mini Cases – have redefined fashion case design in our eyes. We discovered them tucked away in the back of the convention hall at Macworld Expo San Francisco, distributed at a small booth established by the U.S. arm of Japan’s silicone and hard plastic case maker Power Support. And we could hardly have been more impressed.
What first caught our eyes was Miyavix’s choice of cotton fabrics. The six cases separate into two sizes (iPod and iPod mini), each with three fabric patterns: one is predominantly blue, one red, and one yellow. Designed by Kyoto, Japan-based Miyavix to “express the tranquil harmony that is the essence of Kyoto, the cultural center of Japan,” the cases do precisely that, soothing the eye with uniquely detailed floral patterns that whisper “class” and “quality.” The cases were labeled “Kimono cases” by Miyavix at the show, a very apt description of the beauty and decidedly Japanese sensibility of the design.
More importantly, Miyavix didn’t fall into the generic design traps that have snared so many iPod fashion case makers.
The Kimono cases leave holes for the iPods’ screens, Click Wheel controls, headphone ports and Dock Connector ports, while covering virtually every other inch of the iPods with fabric. This was accomplished by stitching cut pieces of black leather into the cotton fabric: one large piece is cut to protect the iPod’s front and top, with a single metal snap that wraps over the iPod mini’s Hold switch to keep the case closed.
Each case also includes two small pieces of leather on the bottom. The mini case is superior to the full-sized iPod version in this detail: the leather actually protects the mini’s lower corners, while the full-sized version only includes two small leather straps that don’t guard the corners at all. Both units have perfectly sized Dock Connector holes, however, so you’ll have no problem using any accessories with the Kimono cases.
Another piece of black leather holds a good-sized metal D-eyelet on each case’s upper back for use with a wrist or bag strap. Miyavix’s logo, “Miyavix Kyoto,” appears on a matching black fabric tag on the cases’ backs. Black fabric also lines both cases to protect the iPods against scratching. Finally, a thick black leather insert is included with every full-sized Kimono case to let it work with 20GB iPods, as well.
When we adopted our Fashion Case rating system, we did away with rating such cases on appearance on the theory that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and price because value isn’t as important to buyers of fashion cases as in other cases. We wish we could give extra bonus points to the Kimono cases for appearence, because we do love how they look – they’re unquestionably some of the very nicest we’ve seen.
While not for everyone, they convey class and quality in both tangible and intangible ways.
Fit and finish on the cases is pretty good. Though seemingly handmade, the cases are attentively stitched and clean on all their key edges, providing ample screen, Wheel, and port access. Holes cut for the screens were generously cut on their bottom and right sides, but not offensively so given the handmade looks of the cases. Our mini Kimono case also showed a tiny hint of black fabric fray near its screen, but was otherwise perfectly stitched.
Protectiveness is also good, but not perfect. The mini case does a better job on the bottom than the full-sized one because of the aforementioned difference in leather bottom protection, but neither case tries to fully cover the iPod’s top surface against scratching. Miyavix’s full-sized case leaves a bit more of the iPod exposed up there, but adds a millimeter or so of fabric at the top that slightly insulates that iPod against drop damage. The mini case actually lets the mini’s top right side protrude a millimeter or two above the top fabric surface, which we’d have preferred not to be an issue. On the bright side, these issues are relatively minor in the world of fashion cases, which are typically far less attentive to important details of design.