Levi Strauss and Co. is one of the oldest fashion brands that has remained relevant for more than 168 years. Till today, the brand is still of benefit to modern-day customers. A quick look at Levi’s history will reveal top-notch qualities such as innovation, durability, and quality products that helped them stay relevant to date. We will also see other influential and relevant factors such as incentive and price marketing campaigns. The brand’s logo itself—the red and white batwing logo—has for many years and till now stood as the effective ambassador for the brand’s success.
When Levi Strauss moved to the US, he never thought his name would be among the most successful fashion brands for many decades. But, looking at the doggedness with which he did business, that success is predictable. For example, one of Levi Jean’s campaigns showed two horses pulling a rope at the two opposite ends to show the strength of the Levi Jeans and denim fabric. The tensile strength makes the clothes last for many years in your wardrobe. Is there an emblem of sustainable fashion that can be better than this?
In the following paragraphs of this article, we will look into Levi’s history and how the brand has managed to remain competitive over the years.
- Levi Strauss—The Founder’s Story
- How Levi’s Brand Started
- Levi’s Brand Today
- How Levi’s Brand has Stayed Relevant
Levi Strauss—The Founder’s Story
In a Jewish family of nine, Levi—initially named Loeb—was born on the 26th of February 1829. He lost his father to tuberculosis when he was seventeen years old. One year later, he moved to the United States with his mother and some of his siblings. Being a Jewish family, they faced a lot of discrimination.
His brother was in the business of dry goods in New York City, and he worked with them. Levi mastered the trade so well that he started to peddle the goods at Kentucky. By July 1853, Levi became an American citizen, and it was around that period he traveled to San Francisco to sell goods to the mining workers. He acted as the West Coast agent for his brother, which then gave birth to the Levi Strauss & Co company.
In his business, he partnered with Jacob Davis, and together, they began to impact the clothing industry significantly. Levi found joy in donating towards religion, educational development, and social purposes.
Jacob W. Davis—Levi’s Cofounder
Jacob Youphes, who later changed his name to Jacob Davis—as we know him today—was born in Riga, Latvia. Like Levi, he is also from a Jewish family lineage, and he also moved to the United States when he was 23 years old.
He lived in many places, including San Francisco, Maine, and Weaverville, before settling in Canada in 1858. He started a family in Canada. After nine years, he moved back to San Francisco, United States, and settled in Virginia, where he began selling pork and tobacco.
He had been a tailor almost all his life, and so, he ventured into making tents, horse blankets, and wagon covers and sold them to railway workers. He met Levi Strauss, from whom he bought his fabrics, and they soon became partners.
Jacob used cotton denim and thick cotton duck cloth to make his products. He also used a copper rivet to defend the stitches—a unique idea. So, he was the one who invented using copper rivets on clothes, and together with his partner—Levi Strauss—they applied for a patent in 1872 and got it.
How Levi’s Brand Started
Jacob, being a tailor, is the inventor of blue jeans. He used rivets to make the jeans more sturdy—an unusual step. In 1872, Davis wrote to Levi, who was at that time, his fabric supplier, for help in getting a patent for his invention—the riveted blue jeans. They decided to become business partners, and together, they got the patent in 1873.
Sales took a significant turn during the California gold rush. The demand for the product became too great for the company as they were still operating from a room in the small factory managed by Davis on Fremont Street.
So, in 1877, the Levi Strauss & Co. factory decided to expand as they grew bigger. They further reinforced Levi’s jeans’ notable features of the rivets, dark-blue denim, the stitching, and the guarantee of quality. Therefore, the company’s jeans became worn in the rough-and-tumble ranches and mines of the West. In 1886, they used the “two-horse” leather patch to symbolize the strength of the Levi clothing, and till today, the company continued to grow its significance.
Levi’s Brand Today
In the last fifteen years, global clothing consumption has doubled. And Levi Strauss & Co. has been a significant force behind sustainable fashion—producing wear that can last for years. Levi’s Jeans symbolize this idea, proving to be one of the most rugged wears that can last for an extended period. However, the company did not stop at that; they are concerned about making denim sustainable, according to its vice president—Paul Dillinger.
They also launched the health, labor, and safety standards for workers. They implemented the shorter workweek system and ensured that they didn’t lay off any employees. They also have full medical support for domestic partners and employees.
Another significant thing about Levi’s products is that they have a “care tag” to remind consumers to reduce their impact on the planet when washing and drying their clothes. It was the first brand to implement the environmental requirement in their factory, among many others. They did a life cycle assessment of their products and discovered new ways to reduce the brand’s ecological footprint.
How Levi’s Brand has Stayed Relevant
Levi has expanded from producing a single product from its earlier years to having thousands of its products in the market today. They have also played off the duality of old and new and showed their ability to adapt to contemporary culture. As a result, they have remained relevant since the brand’s inception. But, what are some of the brand’s best practices over the years that have helped them stay relevant?
They Remained Committed to their Original Design Feature
Some brands tend to forget how they started and what brought them to the limelight. Some even compromise on quality as they get bigger to sell to more people at a minimized production cost. For Levi, this isn’t the case. The quality and originality of Levi’s jeans have not reduced all through the years. Instead, they continue to improve and innovate to serve their target market better.
They also created a symbol of identification for the brand’s product; this they did by adding a small red tag to the back pocket of each pair of jeans. They embellished the label with a simple sans serif text, providing the basis for several of their branding and merchandising. And till date, the color and the font is a crucial aspect of their branding.
They Used a Logo that can be Adapted into Different Context
Levi has several signature touches that help distinguish the brand. The signature stitching, the red tag, the heavy metal rivets, etc., are some of the signature touches. However, the brand’s logo is in a class of its own. It’s a carefully thought-out design that convenes the same concept regardless of its use.
It’s natural that as brands go older, they move through the aesthetics of the different eras. Levi, being in existence for over 145 years, has a logo that evolves but maintains its original concept. You could remove any individual logo component and still have a recognizable brand mark pointing at Levi.
They have a Label that’s Sends a Marketing Message
The creativity behind the brand label— that dub Two Horse patch—the one that goes behind every pair of jeans is top-notch. It’s a well-thought-out iconography that bolsters Levi’s marketing strategy. It has stuck with the brand as its signature image and dates way back to the current logo.
They originally designed it to advertise the brand’s jean strength. A school of thought says the design is too complicated to be used these days as a brand logo; however, because it was well understood back when the brand created it, the meaning seems to have passed down from one generation to another. That’s why it still tags along every jean pair manufactured by Levi today.
Levi Continues to Expand
Levi uses a ton of its brand’s merchandise to integrate its branding into seasonal apparel; however, they don’t stop there. A few years ago, the brand won a bid to sponsor a stadium that will be the home for the 50th Super Bowl. Levi stepped into the stadium with grace and in grand style. They found creative ways to bring the brand to the masses. They did everything, from putting their jeans on the public face using employees of the arena to creating their branded NFL collection for the 49er and later for all the 32 teams.
Levi as a brand is a perfect case study for business success. Levi’s history is a rich one full of opportunities taken, wisdom implemented, and top-notch creativity—to mention only a few. It’s a story good enough for many brands to learn and many points that draw a brand to success.