Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Gadget garments create a stir

Ketchum-based SCOTTEVEST has become darling of mass media

Express Staff Writer

An X-ray view of a SCOTTEVEST jacket shows how electronic devices, and other items, can be discretely stored out of the way and out of sight.

Ketchum entrepreneur Scott E. Jordan doesn't think of himself as a business titan. Such a title might be reserved for people like software guru Bill Gates or media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Nonetheless, last summer, a call came from a Los Angeles-based television producer, asking him to be a featured subject of a popular Japanese program called "The World's Most Successful People."

Jordan, the founder and chief executive officer of SCOTTEVEST (SeV), a Ketchum-based company that makes specialized garments designed to carry electronic gadgets, agreed, not knowing what to expect.

"I'd heard they had interviewed the guy who invented the Frisbee, and the guy who invented the microwave," Jordan said. "I guess it's not necessarily the most successful people monetarily."

Several months later, a crew of Japanese reporters, translators and cameramen descended on Ketchum. They spent two days with Jordan, collecting yard upon yard of footage of the business owner and his adopted hometown.

However unique it might seem, the attention from the Japanese was not completely unexpected. While SeV is not a Fortune 500 powerhouse, it is certainly one of the most-publicized companies in the nation.

"From the inception of the company, in 2001, we've been in thousands of publications," Jordan said. "It's really remarkable how much media attention we get."

Indeed, the list is remarkable. In the latter part of 2004, SeV was featured in Time, U.S. News & World Report, PC Magazine, Outside, Wired, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post and Golf Today, to name only a few.

In months and years prior, the company and its innovative products were featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Business Week and Playboy. In 2003 and 2004, his products were featured in the Nieman Marcus catalog, the shoppers' bible of chic, new products.

Jordan's company office, in Ketchum's light-industrial district, is not only full of high-tech vests, jackets and pants, it is crowded with boxes of articles clipped from scores of magazines and newspapers.

The rise of SeV has bordered on the miraculous, going from a simple idea to an internationally recognized company in just four years. Notably, it has all been done with an advertising budget that wouldn't buy a display ad in most of the publications that have raved about SeV products.

"In the four years, we've probably spent four or five thousand dollars on advertising," Jordan said. "If I had to pay for all of the impressions in the media, I don't know what it would be. $50 million? $25 million? I can't quantify it."

After founding SeV in 2001 in Chicago, Jordan moved the business to Ketchum in September 2003. With his wife, Laura, he designs and sells a wide range of outerwear that functionally integrates the modern gadgets—such as digital music players, cellular phones and hand-held computers—that many people have come to rely on.

SeV sells its fleece jackets, shell jackets, sports jackets and other specialized clothing items—which Jordan has trademarked as "Technologically Enabled Clothing"—primarily through the Internet. In fact, 95 percent of SeV sales are made in cyberspace.

Jordan said he believes the media buzz over his company is largely related to the uniqueness of SeV products.

"For us, it's about recognizing that people's lifestyles are changing," he said. "We predict that in three to five years, almost half of all upper-body garments will incorporate some type of system to carry electronics."

SeV has also employed other new concepts, including magnetic garment closures, designed to replace zippers and buttons.

The SeV line has found a loyal group of customers, including the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service, who like their communications gadgets to remain unseen.

"Year after year, we're doubling our sales," Jordan said.

SeV—which in 2004 received a patent on the concept of incorporating into clothing one or more electronic devices and its associated wires—will eventually seek to license its "Technologically Enabled Clothing" designs to other, established clothing companies.

"A lot of people think I'm P.T. Barnum," he said. "But it's really just about producing something that's interesting."

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