Levi's case study: they twisted seams

18 Sep 2009|Added Value

Back in the 1980s, a jean was a jean was a jean. Unless it was “a pair of Levi’s jeans”. All flat and square and a little low on the hip.

Denim was blue, stitching was gold. Pockets sat where pockets should. Buttons flew.

Levi’s sold more pairs of 501 jeans than ever before. Nearly 40 million a year in Europe alone.

“Classic style never dates,” they said. And fashion was for fakes. Until the ads lost their magic. And the fakes started selling more combat pants than Levi’s sold Original American Jeans.

Girls realised they could feel sexier in anything other than 501. Mum was living proof.

And soon 40 became 30 became 20 million jeans. The store sold the Wild West. And cowboys were just not cool.

The brief was written. To reinvent the Original.

The question was how?

Vintage reproductions before vintage hit? Innocent Denim?
(1998: Remember, natural indigo dyes and organic hemp.)
Raw, rigid and indestructible?


Ergonomic engineering?

Jeans designed for the human body.

It took a little inspiration from a fabric technologist:

“The trouble with denim is that we never let it do what it wants to. We make it fit like a corset, when it wants to drape like a sculpture. Liquid and solid at the same time.

“If you just twisted the seams, the fabric would do the rest.”

Four weeks later the design team had created three prototypes for Red and three for LEJ.

Kids who still wore jeans hated them. Kids who hated jeans told us: “They’re so wrong they must be right.”

In year one, Levi’s sold three million pairs of Engineered jeans. More than Diesel at a stroke. And 10 years later, more than 20 million.

How did we Add Value?

We found that fabric technologist.
And we asked him the right questions.

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