Predicitify, an online feature at the inaugurally feverish Washington Post, can’t yet guess what color tie President Obama will be wearing when he drops the hyphen-elect from his job title (bets favor solid blue). But Washington lawyer and longtime seasonal Islander Cara Grayer Johnson can predict exactly what her husband and father will be wearing around their necks when they hand over tickets to attend the inauguration Tuesday: her own designs.
That is, one of the five Obama Inauguration Ties she has designed for limited production through Vineyard Vines. There is the Classic Obama (royal blue with yellow Os) and the O44 (vertical rows of Os split by columns of 44s, acknowledging he is the 44th president), which comes in four different colors, periwinkle, raspberry, red or royal.
Her label, Ella Rose, had Vineyard Vines produce 250 ties, and already they are almost sold out. Royal O44 was still available at press time; the rest were on back order. Marketed online through Facebook and available on the new Ella Rose Web site and the swish Mandarin Oriental Hotel in D.C., the ties feature what Dr. Johnson calls “subtle, understated graphics.” An Ella Rose spokeswoman reports that Colin Powell, Louis Gossett Jr. and Howard Dean already have plunked down their $95 for a neck piece of history, along with a slew of Capitol Hill staffers, White House fellows and Wall Street types.
Some of the proceeds will go to Global Kids, a nonprofit aimed at urban education. Dr. Johnson doesn’t anticipate making more than 500 ties, but still thinks the proceeds will be higher than expected.
“People have been very generous,” she said down the line from her office at the Federal Communications Commission, where, so far as she knows, she’s the only lawyer in the international division with an ethical fashion retail business on the side.
“Typically [Ella Rose] deals with small artisans in the countryside of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and we pay fair prices,” she said, adding that Claudia in Edgartown and Bramhall & Dunn in Vineyard Haven carry the label’s accessories. Vineyard Vines was a terrific partner for the ties, she said, not just because of her Island connection — she’s a West Tisbury summer resident who has come here every summer of her life — but because Vineyard Vines ensures their products are union-made in the U.S.
“Washington is very busy, buzzing, it’s very fun to be here. A lot of people are here, and a lot of things are being sold. What I like about the ties as a keepsake to remind us of this very historical day, is they are designed well and not very ostentatious.
“It’s all been sold by word of mouth and Facebook,” said the lawyer-designer-mother-of-a-nine-month-old as she waited for her parents to arrive from their Edgartown home. Meanwhile Dr. Johnson was considering her own wardrobe for this weekend of balls and receptions, where her father and husband would ensure her ties were prominently displayed.