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Understated Gadget Style

In an age when people carry multiple gadgets, cases and covers can make a potent style statement. "It's an extension of who you are," says Santiago Gonzalez, maker of a line of high-end men's accessories. "If it doesn't look proper, it can be like wearing a bad suit."
Mr. Gonzalez, whose line is sold in Bergdorf Goodman and Harrods among other retailers, typically totes a BlackBerryBB.T -3.89% an iPhone and a laptop—along with an iPad, which he uses for most business presentations and meetings. (Additionally, he has two other phones for when he travels in Europe.)
When choosing a case, protection is the most important factor. "My BlackBerry has a touch screen that's very sensitive, so I keep it in a sleeve," says Mr. Gonzalez. "If I have it in my pocket, it will dial people and do a bunch of things that I don't want it to do."
Brian Harkin for The Wall Street Journal
Gonzalez's phone.
A laptop or iPad case, even those made of exotic skins like crocodile, must have enough built-in padding to, say, cushion the device in a fall, says Mr. Gonzalez. But he avoids covers that are too bulky or heavy, especially for a laptop, which he likes to slip into a slender workbag.
His own gadgets have cases made of luxurious skins. But he doesn't believe in matching them. "If they're all in different colors, then I know which one is what," he says.
In terms of style, he is open to "high-tech metallic" looks, but only if they are done in a very lightweight metallic alloy. He cites iPhone and BlackBerry covers from Snow Peak and 4thdesign "that are superstrong, super-thin, do not scratch and come in a graphite color I love."

How You Know Him

  • President and creative director of Nancy Gonzalez, his mother's line of high-end handbags and accessories, which the two co-founded in 1998
  • Launched Santiago Gonzalez, the men's line, in 2011 after the fashion and beauty director of Harrods asked if she could buy a duffel bag he was carrying that he made for himself
  • Line is sold in Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods and Isetan, among other retailers world-wide
  • Born in Cali, Colombia, he now splits his time between Paris and New York City, where the business is based
The general look of the piece is key, Mr. Gonzalez says. "If you're a high-end investment banker coming to talk to me about my portfolio and you show up with a polka-dot iPad cover, I would be horrified," he says.
On the other hand, "if you're a style person and you have a really high-tech, really fun cover that you got in Japan, that makes a statement," he says.
Mr. Gonzalez once had an iPad case with spots inspired by the works of British artist Damien Hirst, as well as an iPhone case design from fashion editor and stylist Giovanna Battaglia inspired by a baroque iron gate.
He suggests paying close attention to covering the device that gets the most visibility in business meetings—in his case, an iPad, which he uses to take notes or make presentations. "If I have a generic cover, it just doesn't look good," he says.
For these gadgets, Mr. Gonzalez avoids sleeves, preferring a cover that allows easy access. He typically uses one that opens up like a book. It also has a stand so he can watch movies on the device at other times.
For smaller gadgets like phones, Mr. Gonzalez sometimes favors duffels or workbags that come with a built-in gadget case attached to the inside with a strap, which reduces digging-around time. "When I'm carrying my travel duffel, I'm always losing my phone in it," he says.
This season, cobalt blue and emerald green accessories are currently in vogue, Mr. Gonzalez notes. However, this doesn't mean that he'll be kitting out all his gadgets in those colors.
While it is important to look presentable and stylish, it is just as essential not to overdo it. "If somebody starts taking out a plethora of crocodile cases and everything is like a name brand," he says, "I'll be thinking, 'OK, this is looking a bit much.' It's ostentatious."

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