Upfront

Oct
2008

Eye on Alaska

Alaska is hot… and not because of global warming. The national and international eye is on Alaska and more specifically on its governor, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate—and even more specifically on her eyewear which “has created quite a stir,” according to a story that appeared on September 4 in USA Today. “It’s been awhile since the optical business has been as charged by celebrity specs as it has by the rimless frame the vice presidential nominee wears most of the time,” says USA Today reporter Bruce Horovitz.

The style she’s been most frequently photographed of late in—Kazuo Kawasaki 704 Series in gray distributed by the Los Angeles-based Italee—is also causing a stir for Italee. “We keep getting calls from dealers who want to stock the exact shape and style she’s wearing,” says Amy Hahn, Italee vice president.

Palin was fitted for the eyewear by Joy Leedham, optician and owner of Home Optics, located in Chugiak, Alaska. Leedham does not have a retail location. “I conduct my business from a bag full of eyewear. I visit customers at their homes or offices at their convenience—Saturdays, evenings, whatever works for them. I also participate in a Saturday market in Anchorage from May to September, where I have a tent and dispense eyewear. I love it. I meet a lot of tourists from all over the world as well as locals who come to the market to buy their vegetables.”

Leedham first remembers encountering the governor at a parade Palin was participating in. “She [Palin] stepped out of the parade and said to my daughter, ‘I love your eyewear’—a ProDesign style in purple and green. My daughter replied, ‘My mom can help you find some glasses for yourself.’ ”

In December of last year Leedham went to Palin’s home and fitted her in her kitchen. “I brought nearly 300 frames with me, but we narrowed them down to five and Palin’s family helped picked the Italee style,” the optician explains. “She gravitated toward more unusual and distinct styles and didn’t seem interested in heavy, dark plastics. She was attracted to red frames, but decided to go with something more neutral that would complement a lot of wardrobe options.”

Palin is nearsighted and has slight astigmatism, Leedham says. “I customized the lens shape from a similar Italee design so that both her A and B measurements were perfectly suited to her. I recommended an AR coating, but she didn’t want it. I have a feeling she might change her mind about that,” Leedham says.

Palin also has six other pairs of eyewear, she told Leedham, including Chardon, a frame from the Vista, Calif.-based Optylux’s Ete collection, pictured here. The style is made of Plexiglas with hand-carved flowers. Helmut Igel, president of Optylux, says Palin was fitted in Alaska by John Bernheisel, a company rep a couple of months ago. “John has been fitting her with eyewear for years. Eyewear is very important to Palin as a fashion statement,” Igel says.

—Gloria Nicola

 

|