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Orange makes fashion, political statements in Kiev

KIEV -- Orange scarves, suspenders, turtlenecks, sunglasses, even diapers. Viktor Yushchenko's supporters have flooded the streets of the Ukrainian capital sporting the opposition candidate's color. It's a fashion statement with a political message.

With the so-called Orange Revolution in full swing, anything in that shade is a must-have item for Kiev's fashionistas.

''Everything in orange is flying off the shelves," said Tatyana Zakrevskaya, manager of a downtown clothing store where orange velvet pants and pumpkin-hued cotton shirts are displayed in the window. ''We are already out of orange scarves."

Orange -- Yushchenko's trademark campaign color -- has come to symbolize the opposition's quest for democracy in this country of 48 million people, a bright shade to signify a hoped-for bright future.

Like the rose revolution in another former Soviet republic, Georgia, the color has provided a theme to rally around.

''This was one of the successes of the election campaign. People could recognize each other, and this gave everyone a feeling of support," said Vera Nanivska, head of the International Center for Policy Studies, a local think tank.

Yushchenko's campaign initially planned on using yellow, also found in the country's flag, as their campaign color. Ihor Hryniv, a chief Yushchenko campaign strategist, said the initial idea was ''to position Yushchenko as a warm person."

Later, he said strategists decided on orange -- ''an even brighter and more joyful color."

The color first appeared on banners, posters, and other Yushchenko campaign material in the fall, coinciding with the change of leaves in autumn.

As protests grew over alleged fraud by Kremlin-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, orange became omnipresent.

''I bought myself this orange turtleneck two weeks ago and I have been wearing it ever since, no kidding," said Marina Sizonets, a 21-year-old university student, as she walked down Kiev's main Khreshchatik Street with two friends wearing orange scarves and bandanas. ''I want to live in a democratic country."

Fashion hasn't come cheap. An average orange turtleneck wool sweater in a boutique in downtown Kiev costs about $23, nearly half the monthly minimum wage.

The orange fad has spread beyond Ukraine's borders, with many Europeans -- from lawmakers to students -- bedecking themselves with orange scarves and armbands in a show of solidarity.

Orange T-shirts and flags were also selling on the Internet, with the auction site eBay offering an ''Orange revolution" T-shirt bearing with word ''Tak!" -- Ukrainian for ''Yes!" -- for up to $14.50.

''Psychologists believe this is a very active and energizing color, even for people who are tired or depressed," Nanivska said.

''It helps cheer them up," Nanivska added.

All that orange puts Ukraine perfectly in step with the fashion world, say trendsetters such as Sonya Zabuga, chief editor of the fashion magazine Elle in Ukraine. ''Black is becoming no longer fashionable. People are turning to bright colors," Zabuga said. ''I won't be surprised if orange becomes a fashion hit by the time spring comes -- a unique Ukrainian color."

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