By Crystal Bozek
As inaugural celebrations in Washington, D.C., kick off this weekend, former Secretary of State Colin Powell will be sporting his support for President-elect Barack Obama with a tie designed by a former North Andover resident.
So will Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and actor Louis Gossett Jr.
Cara Grayer Johnson's five red, periwinkle, raspberry and royal blue "O44" power ties have become an overnight hit in the nation's capital. Everyone from political staffers to Wall Street types are handing over the $95 each one costs to own a designer piece of history.
"I really wanted to design something nicely and tastefully," said Johnson, owner of the Ella Rose label and a Washington, D.C., attorney. "It's what we like to refer to as 'discreetly Obama.' ... A lot of people want things to commemorate him, something unique. We think this is kind of like pop art, paying homage to him."
The ties have vertical rows of O's, split by columns of 44s, acknowledging Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
Johnson, who practices international telecommunications law, said she is naturally interested in politics, and had it instilled in her growing up in North Andover, discussing issues with her family around a table in the dining room. Her parents, David and Rose Grayer, still live here.
"As a D.C. attorney, it goes with the job," she said. "And myself and my family have been Obama supporters since the very, very beginning. ... We've watched him rise to power. He's a phenomenal individual."
Johnson came up with the idea of the Ella Rose label while on a trip to Argentina as a Fulbright scholar. Part of her project was to build a business that also would promote social change. So some of the proceeds from the ties will go to Global Kids, a nonprofit organization aimed at urban education. She has already sold out of the first 250 she made, and only plans on selling another 250 more at the most.
"They have been doing phenomenally well, so get them while they're hot," Johnson joked. "Hopefully, they'll be seen around Washington this weekend at all the galas. ... It's especially a great honor to see public servants wearing them."
While the ties are not available in Massachusetts, people can order them online at www.ellarosecollection.com.
Her father, David Grayer, also an attorney, received his tie in the mail this week. He and his wife will travel to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration this weekend.
"I think it's a great tie," Grayer said, showing off a red version yesterday. "It's a real power tie. And it's very subtle, regal like. I think it looks good."
Rose Grayer interrupted: "Colin Powell would look good in it, too."
David Grayer was at Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech while a student at Howard University and has always pushed his daughters, Cara and Daria, to talk about issues like race, power and politics.
"It says O44 and I was born in 1944, so it really fits me," he said. "Because back then I would have never thought I'd get to see this. ... It's something to hold on to, and eventually it will become history."