By  on September 2, 2005

BOSTON — Wal-Mart's fashion message will be writ large — on the Times Square Jumbotron — as part of a back-to-school marketing alliance between the Bentonville, Ark., giant and Ellegirl magazine.

The $285 billion retailer and the fast-growing teen publication will host a Sept. 12 runway show in a Times Square studio that will be simulcast to pedestrians below. Former contestants from "America's Next Top Model," styled by Ellegirl, will stroll the runway in Wal-Mart's fall looks mixed with vintage pieces.

The move comes as Wal-Mart looks to raise its fashion profile and close the gap with rival Target Stores, which has hosted runway presentations in Manhattan for several years.

The runway show is just one aspect of Wal-Mart's alliance with Ellegirl.

A capsule shoe collection called Dare2B — a play on Ellegirl's tag line "Dare to Be Different" — has been testing exclusively in Wal-Mart stores since mid-August. The launch will expand to 300 Wal-Mart stores later in the month and then to 500 stores in November. Copies of Ellegirl will be sold from endcap displays within the footwear department.

Deborah Burns, Ellegirl publisher, said the deal represents "huge brand awareness for Ellegirl and instant fashion credibility for Wal-Mart."

Lucy Cindric, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of apparel, called the campaign a "wonderful opportunity to utilize the relationship that Ellegirl has with the modern teen and to enhance Wal-Mart's commitment to reach young women."

The campaign is backed by a six-page Wal-Mart insert running in Ellegirl's September issue, and by promos on Wal-Mart's in-store television and radio networks. Also, a dedicated Web site, daretobeu.com, is running an advertorial on the shopping habits of four college-bound freshmen.

There are seven Ellegirl shoe styles, including a round-toe Victorian boot and a gold sequin-embellished flat. All retail for under $20, and are produced under license by El Segundo, Calif.-based Dynasty Footwear.

Burns said Ellegirl has been "very pleased" with the shoes' initial performance.

Asked about expansions beyond shoes, she said: "Branded merchandise is a part of the alliance, clearly, and we're going to look at all opportunities that make sense."A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the retailer would "continue to evaluate" the shoes' performance.

This fall, Wal-Mart ran ads for the first time in Ellegirl, Vogue and other glossies as part of its new fashion message.

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