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How can you take plain old headphones and not only give them a unique design, but also make them appealing to one of the most profitable and influential groups: the multi-billion dollar fashion industry and those who partake in it.

Like Skullcandy before him, Keir Dillon knew that if he was going to even come close to turning an $80 million profit like theirs, he was going to have to get creative. Dillon has a sophisticated design standard for his headphones with the goal for women to covet Frends headphones like they covet designer handbags. 

“We want to use materials people can relate to, like leather, denim, cashmere, and then integrate vintage metalworking and jewelry-making techniques.”

By the end of 2012, just two months after Frends headphones hit the shelves of Apple and Best Buy, Dillon’s company had a revenue of $1.6 million. 

Written by Jennifer Wang for Entrepreneur.com

It has happened before. In 2003 Skullcandy introduced colorful, stylish headphones to a dull, monochrome market and topped $80 million in revenue within five years. Many imitators entered the fray, creating a roaring industry for headphones that Futuresource Consulting valued at $6 billion in 2012. Now, Keir Dillon and his six-person team at Frends are on a mission to seize a large swath of the market with premium headphones for women that are treated more like designer handbags than the “shrink-it-and-pink-it” products that had plagued the category to that point.

“We have a humanized approach to design,” Dillon says. “We want to use materials people can relate to, like leather, denim, cashmere, and then integrate vintage metalworking and jewelry-making techniques.” In fact, the company sought out jewelry-makers to manufacture the intricate gold-metal detail that wraps along its Ella earbuds.

Frends products hit Apple stores and Best Buy in October 2012; by the end of the year, the Encinitas, Calif.-based company had revenue of $1.6 million. Sales are expected to skyrocket this year thanks to distribution at popular clothing stores such as Fred Segal, Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. The company also has inked a deal to sell its wares at upscale chain Intermix, including items to be created by fashion designers Barbara Bui and A.L.C.’s Andrea Lieberman.

“We’re positioning it as a covetable accessory rather than a utilitarian tech device,” says an Intermix spokesperson. “It’s rare for women–especially in metropolitan cities–to navigate the streets without headphones. Frends saw a void in the market, and they capitalized on it by ensuring [women] do not have to compromise style for function.”

Read more on the rise of Frends headphones: http://bit.ly/16Pd8ds

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