By and  on July 11, 2005

NEW YORK — Aéropostale Inc. wants to bring star quality to the masses.

The specialty retailer is jumping into celebrity-driven fashion with a new concept called Jimmy'Z, which will offer its own versions of the apparel and accessory styles that permeate today's celebrity circuit. The company will unveil the first of 14 Jimmy'Z stores expected to open this year in Wellington, Fla., on Tuesday, with an eventual goal of 500 to 700 stores nationwide.

"There's a new shine to Hollywood," said Julian Geiger, chairman and chief executive officer of Aéropostale, during an exclusive preview of Jimmy'Z at Aéropostale's offices here. "The age of the Hollywood star is back."

Added chief merchant Chris Finazzo: "People are just enamored with celebrity status."

Jimmy'Z will cater to young adults who want to look like their television and movie star counterparts, but who can't regularly afford $200 T-shirts and $900 purses.

While the company's existing Aéropostale chain caters to East Coast, preppy and athletic 11- to 18-year-old girls and guys, the dual-gender Jimmy'Z brand — despite its surf-based roots — hopes to speak to 18- to 25-year-olds who want to stay on top of the apparel and accessories trends coming out of New York, West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip, Finazzo said.

With the celebrity fascination of late being driven at least partially by the entertainment media — via detailed coverage in magazines such as People, Us Weekly and Star of, for instance, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and Lindsay Lohan's diet — the celebrity lifestyle, including what they wear, has become quite alluring to young people, said Geiger and Finazzo.

That said, though, the average young person can't often shop higher-end stores such as Fred Segal or Scoop. That's where Aéropostale's new brand comes in: Jimmy'Z is seeking to profit from the public's love of all things celebrity by offering an affordable alternative.

For example, "our jeans are modeled after some of the more famous jean makers in the market right now," but will sell for roughly one-third the cost, said Finazzo. Though Jimmy'Z will be a fashion brand, "it is not our goal to be one of the fashionistas here," he admitted.

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