Belk Inc., the regional department store chain in the South, is seeking national exposure by sponsoring the 12th season of “Project Runway.”

“‘Project Runway’ will provide us the perfect opportunity to extend the Belk brand,” said Belk president and chief merchandising officer Kathryn Bufano. “As the authority on lifestyle and fashion in the South, we are looking forward to adding our perspective to the show.”

This story first appeared in the July 3, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Belk operates 301 stores in 16 Southern states, though the company actually sells to consumers in every state through Twenty percent of Belk’s e-commerce is from outside the brick-and-mortar footprint. The retailer already gets some national exposure when ESPN broadcasts the annual Belk Bowl, and the company does conduct some national advertising.

The 12th season of “Project Runway” begins in September and is taping episodes. As part of the deal, Belk pulled together an accessory wall with more than 200 looks that will be incorporated into the contestants’ runway looks during the season.

In addition, Belk will challenge the designer contestants to create a collection inspired by Belk’s lifestyle marketing campaign, “Modern. Southern. Style.” For that design challenge, John Thomas, Belk’s executive vice president of private brands, will be a guest judge on the show. The winner will have the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive line at Belk.

“We’re very pleased to have Belk as our retail partner. The way they carefully curate their collection is a perfect fit for the show, not only for our designers and the models on the runway but also for our fashion-conscious viewers at home,” said Meryl Poster, executive producer of “Project Runway” and president of television for The Weinstein Co., which produces the reality show hosted by Heidi Klum.

During the “Project Runway” season, will have information about the accessories seen on the show, as well as video clips and featured products based on the winning designs. Belk will also sponsor Facebook-based sweepstakes. Entrants will be eligible to win either a selection from the accessories wall or a trip to New York to see a taping of “Project Runway.” The sweepstakes opens Aug. 8 at and ends midnight Oct. 25.

Previously, Lord & Taylor was the retail sponsor. “We had a great couple of seasons with them. We’re focused on other initiatives for fall,” said a Lord & Taylor spokesman.

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