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August 22 2014

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Bernie Madoff’s Pants: Now Available For Your iPad

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Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, the saying goes. What about until you’ve swaddled your iPad in his sweater?

A new company, Frederick James, will let you do just that, in the castoffs—or forcibly-removeds—of Bernard Madoff, the reviled Ponzi schemer currently serving a 150-year sentence in North Carolina’s Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

Founder John Vaccaro, a Web designer and developer, conceived of the idea for Frederick James when he left one of his own cashmere sweaters lying near to his new iPad; soon after, he began producing a small run of cases in cashmere and fashion fabrics. But the idea took off when he read about the auction of items from the estate of Bernie Madoff. Off he went, and came home with a bounty of clothing, now cut and sewn into custom, one-of-a-kind tech accessories. An initial batch—made from a navy Dior sweater and a Bergdorf Goodman sweater vest—sold out within a day of returning from the factory, solely by word of mouth. A Wall Street lawyer bought five at $500 apiece to give as Christmas gifts.

Wall Streeters, hedge funders, and financial types are the main market for the cases, Vaccaro explains. At the auction, white-collar financial guys snapped up lots for memorabilia’s sake—the same people who, he hopes, will be buying iPad cases made of Banana Republic chinos and Murphy & Nye sail-cloth pants for between $250 and $500. (Certificates of authenticity are available upon request.) “There were people in the hedge fund industry who wanted to showcase them in their offices,” Vaccaro remembered from the auction, where over-the-top items like Madoff’s monogrammed velvet evening slippers went for several times their estimated prices. “It’s a prize thing for people in finance.” Asked about the potential squeamishness of profiting off Madoffiana, the designer shrugged. “Nobody’s really objected,” he says. “People are like, oh, that’s cool—then people are like, oh, that’s kind of weird. At the end of the day, [they] like owning a piece of history.” He noted that proceeds from the auction benefited the victims, and that he hopes to make a donation of his own once his company turns a profit. He declined to say how much he’d paid for the lots of Madoff clothing, though he did disclose it had been more than he’d intended.

“I was buying stuff I didn’t even need,” Vaccaro added about his hours at the sale. “By 10 o’clock at night, there were stragglers there—probably only 20 of us left. This lot of cooking stuff came up, and I thought, why not?” It won’t make a tech accessory, but he’s now the proud owner of a set of Madoff’s pots and pans. “Everything tastes a little richer when you’re cooking in them.”

The Madoff iPad cases are available now at www.frederickjames.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Frederick James

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