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The Palin Industry

The vice presidential candidate sparks fashion trends.

When, in the course of this remarkable and drawn-out campaign season, it was re-revealed that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had a tanning bed in her employ, the Washington, D.C.-based Indoor Tanning Association rejoiced.

"Moderate amounts of indoor tanning allow Gov. Palin to experience the many health benefits that come with exposure to UV light," association president Dan Humiston said. "Especially in dreary northern locations like Alaska, indoor tanning can help guard against wintertime depression and ward off diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency."

Some tanning-bed retailers had high hopes that the news would cause ripples, if not waves, of demand. After all, Palin's sense of style has rocked America, with features in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal analyzing her fashion and, of course, comedian Tina Fey mocking it. The New Yorker magazine even published a piece about Palin's alleged proclivity for tanning. The vice presidential candidate has clearly inspired the industrious to attempt to cash in on her looks.

But so far, Palin's indoor-tanning fetish is one fashion statement that hasn't crashed the retail shores.

"I'd have to say the last three months have been the slowest we've ever had," says Tim Bledsoe, national account manager of ProSun International, a tanning-bed wholesaler out of St. Petersburg, Fla. "I've never had any of my dealers mention Sarah Palin."

The news is better, however, the closer you get to what Palin actually wears over her melanin-enriched skin. The candidate's frameless glasses have created a spectacle of their own. Since the day Sen. John McCain announced that she would be his Republican running mate, there's been a nationwide run on designer Kazuo Kawasaki's model 704 frames, with sales increasing more than four-fold.

Lucky for Italee Optics in Los Angeles' Koreatown neighborhood: The distributor has the American exclusive on the $375 specs and has been scrambling to fill orders. "We're still overwhelmed," says Italee vice president Amy Hahn.

"It has to do with her being thrust front and center in the media spotlight," Hahn says. "She's the most talked about woman today."

Steven Colbert, David Letterman, and Colin Powell--the latter of whom recently endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama--have all worn similar versions of Kawasaki frames in the past, she says. Even Fey had to get a pair from retailer Sol Moscot Opticians in Manhattan to complete her transformation from prime time actor to Sarah Palin impersonator via NBC's Saturday Night Live.

But, Hahn says, in Italee's 10-year history of carrying the specs, "nothing can compare to the response we got when Palin wore them."

During her vice presidential acceptance speech Aug. 29, Palin also sported red Naughty Monkey "Double Dare" peep-toe shoes. The store where she bought them, Juneau, Alaska's Shoefly + Hudson, touted the fashion statement on its website with a statement of its own: "First Stop: Shoefly + Hudsons, Second Stop: Run for Vice President of the U.S.?"

Steve Pendergraft, Naughty Monkey's national key accounts executive, says the San Diego company had to restock retailers with an infusion of a few thousand pairs after Palin wore them, but it still sold out of its run of the red Double Dare shoes this month. The 4-year-old company is readying another batch for next month.

"After she wore the red ones, we saw a definitive increase in retailer requests for that color," he says. "It wasn't our number one color until she wore it."

Even some hairstylists are benefitting from the Palin look. One report states that her mane inspired women to line up at New York's Bergdorf Goodman salon to get that Palin "do."

Meanwhile, at least one online retailer seems to think voting for Palin is a don't: But that hasn't stopped it from capitalizing on a Palin-related fashion statement of its own making. At Misswit.net you can buy a "Palin Institute of Abstinence" T-shirt complete with a silhouette of a pregnant woman. It's an obvious reference to Palin's pro-abstinence stance, and her daughter's apparent lack thereof.

One statement-making T-shirt: $16 (plus shipping and handling).

Making a buck off Palin-mania? Priceless.

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