By  on August 2, 2007

Express wants to energize the back-to-school denim rush by offering customers the chance to become professional stylists for a day.

The retailer will launch the In Your Wildest Jeans Stylist Search on Monday. Entrants must submit photos of themselves, via the Express Web site, wearing their best denim-based look.

Representatives from Ford Models, Parsons The New School for Design and Express will judge the photos. They will be looking for the "best expression of denim style." Entrants need not be swathed in denim from head to toe, nor are they required to wear Express denim, but at least one item of clothing must be blue denim. The use of denim in the look will account for 50 percent of the judges' determination, and 25 percent will be based on personal style. The remaining 25 percent of the score is split evenly between the overall look and creativity of the outfit.

Contestants will have until Sept. 3 to submit their photos.

Pamela Seidman, director of public relations and communications for Express, who created the contest, said the emergence of stylists as celebrities in their own right had served as the inspiration.

"We feel like the stylist is the new talent celebrity," Seidman said. "You've got supermodels, photographers and fashion editors, and stylists are now thought of in the same way. It's sort of the Rachel Zoe phenomenon."

Seidman wanted to give the contest a sense of authenticity and legitimacy by involving some of the fashion industry's big-name players.

"We partnered with Ford because we think they're an industry authority and partnered with Parsons to give it even more credibility," Seidman said.

The grand-prize winner will be flown to New York to work with Ford's stable of fashion talent on their own photo shoot. Designer and stylist Annebet Duvall will accompany the winner to an Express store to choose items for the shoot. Julien Farel will serve as hairstylist for the Ford models appearing in the shoot, which will be photographed by Tim Geaney. The winner will receive a $1,000 gift card and 100 composite cards of the shoot.

Express will also give out prizes to the top 56 submissions. The top six runners up will receive $500 gift cards and 50 third-place winners will receive $100 gift cards.The contest will draw attention to Express' new

b-t-s denim assortment, which has been broken into three pricing tiers ranging from $59.50 for the X2 collection to as much as $125 for the King of Prides premium offering. Seidman described the b-t-s season as a "vital time of the year in terms of volume" for denim.

Express is using the contest to increase traffic on its Web site, which it hopes will translate into higher in-store foot traffic. Visitors to the Web site can print a coupon for use in the store, and anyone who spends $40 and uses the coupon will receive a subscription to Lucky or Details magazine. Seidman said the contest was a step toward the company's goal of transforming the Web site into an online retail environment.

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