An ear for fashion

Allison Tomei

Some glitter here and rhinestones there help students add pizazz to their phones


Credit: John Proppe

For Matt Penn, selling cell phone accessories to a customer boils down to one thing — looks.

Penn, a sales manager at Buy Anything Wireless in Akron, said more people are buying accessories for their phone for fashion purposes, rather than function.

“They don’t care what phone it is or what it does,” he said. “They just want it to look nice.”

Penn spoke of a fashion trend marketers are taking advantage of as they promote devices with multiple colors and designs and offer accessories such as rhinestones, faceplate covers, stickers and tattoos.

Penn said these marketers are the reason for the sudden popularity of inexpensive personalization accessories.

“Anything they market, people will buy,” Penn said. “If that’s what they are showing and that’s what they are putting on the shelves — we sell it.”

According to the Associated Press, this trend accounts for $1 billion a year in the United States, and the market is growing from 10 percent to 15 percent annually.

Senior marketing major Shelby Wilson said she put gemstones on her phone last October because it was in style.

“They became really popular around this time last year,” she said, “so I decorated the front of mine with pink and white gems and even had my name spelled out in them.”

Although Wilson doesn’t remember what influenced her to “bling her ring,” she said the trend is fading.

“I don’t know if it’s me getting older or just being so over it,” she said. “People make fun of me now for having gems on my phone.”

Stickers, or “bling packages” as Penn calls them, are the most popular seller at Buy Anything Wireless, which sells an assortment of shapes, sizes and colors.

Wilson said she used a sheet of gem stickers from Target for about $10 and applied them herself.

Penn said he sells only stickers, which customers can apply themselves, ranging from $9 to $30 per sheet.

However, crystallizing has become so popular that companies such as Shades of Fun offer Swarovski brand “bling kits” ranging from $250 to more than $400. The New York City company allows customers to choose a design or pick from a variety of designs on its Web site. The customer then sends his or her phone to them, along with payment. According to the company’s Web site, the phone will be shipped back within six business days — embellished in crystals.

Before being sold on this new fad, Penn said there is one thing people should know before decorating their cell phones.

“If you put anything — stickers, gems or covers on your phone, you will automatically lose your warranty,” he said. “Then, if something happens to your phone and it needs fixed, you will have to pay for it.”

Penn said a lot of people do not realize this until they need a repair, but for those who do know, it doesn’t make a difference.

“Even if they know they forfeit their warranty, they still do it,” he said, “just to have their phone look cool.”

Wilson did not know about this policy when she decorated her phone, but said it wouldn’t have mattered to her.

“I had an ugly phone, and I wanted it to look better,” she said. “That wouldn’t have mattered to me at all.”

Senior nursing major Sarah Jensen said she was drawn to cell phone gems because she likes things that sparkle.

“I think gems and rhinestones have become popular in general,” she said. “I’m one of those people who just likes that kind of stuff.”

Jensen said she thinks cell phones are a way to express one’s style and taste.

“I have my phone with me all the time, and everyone sees it,” she said. “It’s a way for me to show that I love shine and sparkle.”

Contact School of Fashion Design and Merchandising reporter Allison Tomei at [email protected].