NEW YORK — Talk about adding stretch to denim.

“Bikini” and “denim” might not exactly go hand-in-hand, but that’s not stopping Levi’s from launching a mega-campaign around its participation in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

“This is the most anticipated magazine of the year — our plan has to do with the magnitude of the issue,” said a spokesman for Levi Strauss & Co.

The denim brand, which is the issue’s anchor advertiser this year, will hold a meet-and-greet with model Melissa Keller, who appears in the edition, at the Levi’s flagship on 59th Street and Lexington Avenue today between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Another tie-in is a screensaver featuring five of the issue’s models that can currently be downloaded at and, starting Friday, at

The magazine, which is expected to reach 56 million people, hits stands today and features Argentine model Yamila Diaz-Rahi on the cover. It is photographed by Jeff Bark. For the fourth year in a row, the swimsuit issue is edited by Diane Smith.

The race for the cover grabbed attention this week when SI revealed that Diaz, a virtual unknown, beat out Heidi Klum.

“Finding out that I was on the cover was a total surprise,” Diaz told WWD Tuesday. “I did not know until yesterday.”

She said Sports Illustrated called her and asked her to come into the office on Monday to do a fitting for an MTV “Fashionably Loud” appearance. “When I got there, there were cameras everywhere,” said Diaz.

The current issue, with the theme “Latin America,” carries 110 ad pages, up 25 percent from last year’s 88.

“I’m really proud of the issue,” said the cover girl. “We’ve shot in places all over Latin America that have not been showcased and we’re going to reach people all over America.”

Other models seem less convinced of the magazine’s socio-political aspirations. Said Molly Sims, a three-year veteran of the issue, “People buy this magazine for one thing: To look at girls.”

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