At a Glance
Shirt with iPod integration.
(The following review, covering Koyono’s BlackCoat Sport and BlackCoat Surf Edition, is an excerpt from a Playlist article on iPod apparel; you can read the full article at the link below.)
Koyono, an upscale-fashion-oriented company, has used Eleksen’s ElekTex technology to add “fabric” iPod controls to Koyono’s BlackCoat jackets and shirts. However, instead of silk-screening button labels onto the fabric, Koyono uses tactile, flexible-PVC overlays that make it easy to use the controls — located inside the jackets — without looking at them.
Koyono describes the $299 BlackCoat Sport as “Business Active wear.” In other words, it’s a lightweight, comfortable jacket with a design that still looks nice enough to wear to work or out on the town. The waist-length, straight-cut jacket feels like it’s made of overcoat material, but is actually constructed of waterproof/windproof/breathable Nextec Epic nylon. Instead of zippers, the BlackCoat Sport closes via five large buttons. You get two zippered interior pockets (one for your iPod, which also includes a hidden smaller pocket) and two non-zippered hand pockets on the outside.
Koyono’s $199 BlackCoat Surf Edition uses a similar 5-button, straight-cut design, but in a short-sleeve, water-resistant, stretch-cotton jacket; it looks more like a thick shirt than a coat. (It’s also available in either black or sandstone.) Koyono advertises the Surf as a “summer” jacket — for wearing over a t-shirt or tank top to store all your gadgets — thanks to its breathable fabric, mesh lining, and short sleeves. Like the Sport, you get two zippered interior pockets (one for your iPod, with the same hidden pocket) and two non-zippered hand pockets.
The ElekTex buttons used in Koyono’s products work exactly like those used in Kenpo’s MKT-07 jacket; in fact, the systems are so similar that I’d be surprised if Kenpo isn’t using Eleksen’s technology, as well. You place your iPod in the left interior pocket and connect the dock-connector plug, and your headphones, to your dockable iPod. (Unlike JanSport and Kenpo jackets, the Sport and Surf don’t include any cable management loops.) Unfortunately, the Koyono controller suffers from the same inconvenient auto-lock feature as the Kenpo version. (See the full article for more details.)
However, the Koyono jackets differ from the Kenpo in that Koyono has placed the iPod controls on the inside of each jacket, next to the iPod pocket; you use your thumb to press the buttons. This design has both advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, it means that it’s not obvious you’re wearing an expensive, iPod-compatible jacket, and the jacket’s looks aren’t blemished by an iPod controller. On the other hand, it makes the buttons much less convenient, especially if the jacket is buttoned. (Granted, this would be a bigger issue in a cold-weather coat, where opening the jacket to access the controls would mean letting in the cold air.) In addition, this placement begs the question: Do you really need integrated controls if you have to reach inside the jacket to access them? I’m sure some people will be satisfied with a non-iPod-integrated jacket with an interior pocket that lets them press the iPod’s own Click Wheel through the pocket lining.
Both BlackCoat jackets are very comfortable and look great. However, their interior-mounted controls and hefty price tags make them more difficult to recommend than the Kenpo and JanSport models, which are less expensive and a bit more functional. Basically, you pay for Koyono’s more-fashionable style; if you’re OK with that, so are we.–Dan Frakes