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Phone cases making a fashion statement

Show off your inner wild thing with this

Show off your inner wild thing with this hot pink rimmed leopard print iPhone 4 case by Kate Spade, available for $35 at select department stores and katespade.com. Photo Credit: Handout

Phone cases are the newest "it" accessory.

In the world of accessories, phone cases have become the newest stars -- almost as hyped as jewelry or handbags. And while they're meant for protecting the precious communicating equipment -- whether it be an iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid or other -- the cases are sending out their own messages about the status and personality of the user.

After all, phones are -- in more ways than one -- in your face. Kim Kardashian wore her heart on her BlackBerry case during happier times of her now defunct relationship with Kris Humphries, tweeting that her friend made them. "I love them," she said, showing three separate covers featuring pictures of the then lovey-dovey couple.

Less public types (and who isn't?) seem to be eschewing basics and instead going for colorful, quirky, fun designs. Kate Spade, for one, has unearthed a gold mine. "This category has become quite a strong business for us," says Deborah Lloyd, the creative director for the company. "We sell thousands of these cases per week," she said, noting they've become one of Apple's leading designer brands.

Lloyd says that "since everyone is always on their phone, your cover makes a statement in the world. It's an easy way to add a little personality to your tech gadgets, and I always try to design things to make people smile. "

Isaac Mishan, the owner of Thesis Brands, where Ribbz phone cases are produced, says covers are "an important 21st century fashion accessory." These bold neon jobs combine form and function with high voltage colors like purple, yellow and green and a porcupine-esque urethane structure that protects. You can hurl it through a glass window without damage (to the phone that is).

Trend expert and author Tom Julian says phone cases are among the most exciting categories in retail. "If the new millennium's first 10 years was about designer waters and designer jeans, the second decade is all about the designer phone case." He adds that the cases "allow the personality to come through and just might start a conversation. Here are a few that just may do that.

An entrepeneur's imagination

Making unusual phone cases has become a small industry. Search for them on eBay, and you'll find plenty of varieties including designs by Yue Yang, an animation student at the Academy of Art in San Francisco who goes by the name of "Summer" on the site and builds wild phone cover sculptures with crystal, faux pearls and shells that range from $12 -- $150.

Closer to home, Patti Taylor, a retired pre-K teacher who lives in East Williston, is selling swanky mink covers for iPhones. Each of these -- some dyed in colors like merlot, hot pink or red -- is adorned with a vintage brooch or charm. "When people go out to dinner they usually have their phones on the table, and I love the idea of having this beautiful, elegant case sitting right there," she says. Hers are available at mellinacompany.com for $210.

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