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Sarah Palin's purse pick? Naperville's Elli and Friends
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Columnist

Sarah Palin carried an Elli and Friends' purse on the campaign trail.

 

Courtesy of Phil Masturzo | Akron Beacon Journal

Elli and Friends' "A Night on the Town Bag" is available in fabrics other than the one Sarah Palin carried.

 

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Published: 11/17/2008 11:20 AM

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How'd they do it?

How'd two Naperville women who've only been in the purse business for a few months manage to get one of their handbags on Sarah Palin's arm during the campaign?

Most new businesses only dream of that type of exposure.

Cathy Fladeland and Regina O'Connor thought the best way to spread the word about their new purse business, Elli and Friends, was to get their bags to celebrities. But how?

Oprah Winfrey was their first choice, but they had no connections to the talk show host. However, "a friend of a friend of a friend" knew a way to get a purse to fashion's fall "it" girl, the Republican vice presidential nominee. So they sent their "A Night on the Town" - a small purse made of colorful fabric, with pink silk lining and green velvet trim. Retail price? $58.75.

Palin was being bombarded with designer goodies (not to mention a $150,000 wardrobe budget), so the chances of her even seeing it were slim. But every day, Fladeland Googled Palin's name and looked through hundreds of pictures of her.

Then, one day in mid-October, there it was.

"I was all by myself, but I screamed. I dialed (O'Connor) so fast and said, 'Can you see it? I see it!'" Fladeland said.

The "A Night on the Town" bag appeared in newspaper photos from Cairo, Egypt, to Akron, Ohio, and on TV shows like "Entertainment Tonight." Best of all, Palin carried it with different outfits as she campaigned. The Elli and Friends owners considered that the ultimate compliment.

"She must have liked it and found it functional in her busy schedule," Fladeland said.

Elli and Friends sells limited edition "works of art" bags using "fabrics we love" for less than $100. The exact bag Palin carried is no longer available, but the same style with different fabric is $58.75. In the suburbs, the bags are available at Only Nails Only Us, 207 S. Hale, Wheaton, or at elliandfriends.com.

Their next hope? An Elli and Friends purse on Michelle Obama or her girls at the inauguration.

"To see the kids walking into the White House with our bags would make our hearts sing," said Fladeland, laughing. "Hey, if you don't aim high, you're not going to get anywhere."