Levi’s & other denim makers demeanour ahead

July 13, 2017 - fall Denim

Levi’s other denim makers demeanour ahead

July 13, 2017
Updated: Jul 13, 2017 3:37pm

 Photo: Daymond Gascon,  The Chronicle / San Francisco Chronicle/Carlos Avila Gonzalez


Is it probable to be both a 164-year-old birthright code and a conform disrupter?

Jonathan Cheung, Levi’s conduct of tellurian pattern for group and women, thinks so.

Just ask him since a San Francisco denim hulk innate out of a California Gold Rush endures, and he’ll send a litany of reasons since a contriver of a initial blue jean has for decades remained an general powerhouse that consistently breaks a mold.

From a incursion with Google into wearable tech for a “smart denim” trucker coupler rising in a fall, to spring’s “bare-butt jeans” partnership with Paris conform common Vetements, Levi’s continues to innovate with some of a world’s many distinguished artistic leaders.


“It’s adjust or perish,” says Cheung, who can mostly be found tinkering during a Levi’s Eureka Innovation Lab, a brief transport from a company’s Battery Street headquarters. “In this Bay Area context, we have to have that mind-set of ‘I’m going to interrupt myself’ rather than lay and wait to fundamentally be disrupted.”

Style Files

Despite a prevalence of athleisure, sagging sales in a $12 billion U.S. denim market, and an attention disorder from a 24-hour online selling effect, Levi Strauss Co. has managed to grow a boost and stay loyal to a birthright while upping a all-important cold quotient.

“They’ve never left their roots, nonetheless they’ve figured out how to get intent in what is trending, what is critical and what is indispensable to make their product stay relevant,” says Marshal Cohen, arch attention researcher of a NPD Group, a marketplace investigate firm. “They’re still as critical to a (Baby) Boomer who fundamentally grew adult on them. And they’ve turn applicable to each era from a Millennials to a Z and everybody in between.”

Levi Strauss Co. got a common start when Bavarian-born Levi Strauss, a youngest son in a Jewish family, immigrated to New York in a late 1840s to assistance his dual comparison brothers settle a dry products business, according to Levi’s historian Tracey Panek.

Looking for event in Gold Rush country, Strauss headed to San Francisco in 1853, environment adult emporium on Battery and Pine streets to enhance a family indiscriminate business.

Strauss sole things such as blankets, shoes and habit to stores via a American West for a subsequent 20 years, substantiating himself as an venerable business personality and humanitarian via a city.

  • Warp + Weft is a direct-to-consumer denim line from Sarah Ahmed, who is also a artistic executive of DL1961. Photo: Warp + Weft



In a late 1850s, a find of Nevada’s Comstock Silver Lode led Reno tailor Jacob Davis to come adult with an innovative breathe pattern for a droves of china miners operative a area.

Adding little copper rivets on a pockets, waistband, arm and other highlight points, Davis combined a stronger “waist overall” that could take a daily violence of tough labor.

“He got so many soap-box reviews for his pants that he couldn’t keep adult with demand,” says Panek, who oversees an exquisite repository of denim collectibles during a Levi’s San Francisco headquarters, trimming from mud-caked cowboy 501s from a 1800s to a bedazzled super low-rise jeans Jennifer Lopez wore during a 2001 Super Bowl.

With Strauss already his fabric supplier, Davis due a partnership, and on May 20, 1873, Strauss and Davis perceived an central U.S. obvious for work pants reinforced with copper rivets. The pivotal date has given come to be famous as a birthday of a blue jean.

Slimming down: Levi’s entirely embraced a spare jean trend this year with this 501 Skinny style. Photo: Levi's

Initially called “XX” and renamed a 501 in 1890, a iconic American mantle has developed from work wear to counterculture matter to modern-day habit staple, and is deliberate Levi’s — and San Francisco’s — single-most successful grant to tellurian fashion.

“If we go by a who’s who of who has ragged Levi’s, they are a informative movers and shakers,” says a 50-year-old Cheung, who has led a Levi’s pattern group for a past 4 years. “Figures from a birth of stone ’n’ hurl to punk to grunge. Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Steve Jobs — even Einstein! It gives Levi’s this low informative chronological tie that no other code can opposition in apparel.”

Today’s 501 jean maintains many of a same classical pattern sum used as a attention prototype, from a signature red tab, 5 pockets and 5 belt loops to a leather patch on a waistband and copyright arcuate back-pocket stitching.

“501s will never go out of style, in a same approach a Burberry trench, Manolo pump, Converse sneaker or Hanes T-shirt endure,” says Emily Holt, a former Vogue editor who founded womenswear boutique Hero Shop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin area in 2016.

Selling an normal of 10 pairs of Levi’s per month, a store saw an boost of one span sole each other day via Apr and May.

“It’s critical to me that a store has a clarity of place, and so carrying brands like Levi’s that are deputy of a city is crucial,” Holt says. “It also helps that Levi’s have turn some-more manifest newly among a high-fashion crowd, so they’re quite applicable for a customer.”

Staying applicable and forward of a container is generally critical in a unsatisfactory $200 billion U.S. conform attire business, where denim creates adult about 6 percent of a market.

A publicly hold code that also has Dockers, best famous for a khakis, and value-based denim brands Denizen and Signature in a portfolio, Levi Strauss Co. warranted $291 million in net income in 2016 and has confirmed top- and bottom-line expansion for 4 uninterrupted years, according to a company’s annual report.

Cohen characterizes a brand’s standing as “in a healthy position because, frankly, we’ve been ignoring a denim wardrobes for a while.

“Denim is not dead; it’s only not as prohibited as it once was. For a while, people were shopping 5 pairs a year and had 14 pairs in their wardrobes. So, between wearing those out and looking for new product, a life cycle of a denim business is starting to come behind again.”

Aiding that quip is denim’s snack into a technical and opening space. In new years, Levi’s introduced shape-recovery jeans with a aloft widen and aloft liberation ability; Warp Stretch for group with a straight widen that mirrors movements such as crouching and running; imperishable jeans with Dyneema, an ultra-durable fiber used for climbing rigging and troops applications; moisture-wicking Coolmax jeans; and heat-retaining jeans with Thermolite.

Sarah Ahmed is a CEO and owner of a new denim line Warp + Weft, as good as a artistic executive of DL1961 and Founder of a blue shirt shop. Photo: Warp + Weft

According to Sarah Ahmed, a New York artistic executive of DL1960 and owner of a new reward denim code Warp + Weft, denim consumers are perfectionist some-more application from their jeans.

“Remember in 2005 when everybody had rhinestones and crazy things on their behind pockets?” says Ahmed, whose new denim-for-all code offers an unconventionally far-reaching operation of sizes between 00 and 24, with each jean labelled underneath $100. “First they wanted jeans to only demeanour good. Then they wanted them to feel good with advancements in record of widen and retention. That’s where a patron is now — they wish everything.”

At a intersection of opening textiles and wearable tech is Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google. The $350 denim jacket, denounced for consumer contrast during a 2017 South by Southwest Festival, facilities a left sleeve with wireless digital record woven into an interactive washable fabric. Created for a civic cyclist, a daub or brush of a slap allows a wearer to play song or map a destination.

“They cover a low end, a high end, and even a super unpractical stuff,” says Kiya Babzani, co-owner of Self Edge in San Francisco’s Mission District, who began his selvage denim business 11 years ago stocking Levi’s-inspired Japanese reproductions of selected American jeans. “There’s no habit association in a universe that does so many levels of denim a approach Levi’s does.”

But even as a code has schooled to coexist with athleisure, shoppers will be hard-pressed to find a sharp Levi’s yoga breathe anytime soon.

“That’s not a identity,” records Cheung. “Comfort and flexibility are fantastic. But we’ll demeanour during that macro trend, afterwards furnish it in a Levi’s way.”

Weaving in tech: A stirring Levi’s Commuter coupler is interactive, interjection to Jacquard by Google. Photo: Levi's

Always walking a line between pulling a conform pouch and remaining loyal to a abounding history, a dear code is constantly iterating a fits.

For spring, Levi’s reintroduced a 1969 Orange Tab collection with a new line of vintage-inspired jeans, denim jackets and shirts. A limited-edition 501 plug collection featuring hand-distressed denim, scribbled elaboration and selected customizations forsaken on May 20, that a code distinguished as 501 Day with concerts and special events during Levi’s stores around a globe.

And for a initial time, a iconic button-fly 501 with a classical unsettled finish was offering final year in a widen fabric, and this year in a body-conscious spare fit.

“Our birthright is a anchor,” Cheung says. “But newness is a oxygen of a business.”

Nerissa Pacio Itchon is a Peninsula freelance writer. Email: style@sfchronicle.com.

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