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IRWIN STERNBERG JERRY GARCIA TIES

By Published on .

On the surface, it seems as unlikely as The Dead going mainstream.

J. Garcia Art Neckwear, a collection of fashion neckwear featuring the art of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, has become a hit in the mainstream market.

During its first week at Bloomingdales in New York, for example, the line sold more than 4,000 units at $30 a pop. Now in its fifth collection, consumers have bought a total of 1.2 million of the ties since they were introduced in 1992.

Flush with the success of J. Garcia neckwear, marketer Stonehenge Ltd. next brought out ties printed with the art of jazz legend Miles Davis; "Molecular Expressions," featuring microscopic photography of vitamins; and Ties for Tibet, bearing spiritual art of that nation.

Behind the burst in novelty ties from Stonehenge, a "traditional neckwear" manufacturer, sits Irwin Sternberg, 48. Formerly VP with Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, New York, a leader in traditional men's clothing, Mr. Sternberg personally manages Stonehenge's marketing, with the help of two agencies, Art Blum Agency, San Francisco, and Nicole & Co., New York.

The efforts rely more on PR and word-of-mouth acceptance than advertising, he says. The J. Garcia line got a significant PR boost, for example, when one was knotted around the collar of Vice President Al Gore.

That kind of imagery helped sell the Garcia brand to aging baby boomers.

"The men and women who rebelled during the '50s and '60s today are corporate officers," Mr. Sternberg says.

Next on his list: outer space. Ties imprinted with microphotography of Apollo moon rocks are scheduled for release at Macy's New York this month.

"If [marketers] want to go on yesterday's ideas they're going to go on yesterday's business philosophy and results," he says.

Far out.

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