Gi­ant strides

The Australian - The Deal - - First Up -

JAMES Curleigh re­calls ex­actly the mo­ment he saw the way for­ward for legacy brand Levi’s.

The newly ap­pointed pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent was fly­ing in to San Fran­cisco at 9.38pm on July 4, 2012. There were fire­works to celebrate US In­de­pen­dence Day but what Curleigh no­ticed was how, across the sprawl­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley, names such as Twit­ter, Google, and Face­book were vis­i­ble from above.

“I thought, let’s make a 150-year-old start-up,” Curleigh says.

“What do start-ups want? They want scale and aware­ness and they want to be global. And what big com­pa­nies want is agility, and the fo­cus and the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit of the start-up. What if you could do both? It’s about lever­ag­ing our icons and lead­ing with in­no­va­tion. And get­ting that bal­ance right is not only some­thing that’s within our reach, but also crit­i­cal to our brand and our busi­ness. And that’s the jour­ney we’re on.”

Curleigh ad­mits the com­pany had lost its way in the past cou­ple of decades, de­spite the fact that it has al­ways been – since man­u­fac­tur­ing the 501 in 1873 – the world’s top denim brand, with no ob­vi­ous sec­ond in line.

“There are a hun­dred num­ber twos,” he says. “I’m not sure that Levi’s did the best job this cen­tury of break­ing through the clut­ter and stamp­ing its lead­er­ship and au­then­tic­ity on lifestyle (as a cat­e­gory). More jeans com­pa­nies have been born this cen­tury, in the past 15 years, than in the pre­vi­ous 150 years. So that means noise, clut­ter, con­fu­sion, com­pe­ti­tion.”

He be­lieves the com­pany has been at­tacked on all sides – by pre­mium denim, tra­di­tional denim, fast fash­ion, value and own-la­bel cat­e­gories. His an­swer? To re­build the brand by lever­ag­ing the icons from the past as a pre­mium al­ter­na­tive to fast fash­ion.

Brand­ing has been re­in­forced by spon­sor­ship of Levi’s Sta­dium – the high-tech home of the San Fran­cisco 49ers football team. There will be a $220 mil­lion in­vest­ment over 20 years in this 68,500-seater hub of sport, mu­sic and events in Levi’s home­town. “It was one of those very serendip­i­tous mo­ments where we were think­ing of a big move,” Curleigh says. “We un­der­stood the op­por­tu­nity, we looked at the in­vest­ment, looked at what we could do to ac­ti­vate it. The sin­gle big­gest in­sight was that in a sta­dium, whether it’s con­certs or sports, 90 per cent of fans are wear­ing blue jeans. So why wouldn’t you con­nect with that fan base through Levi’s Sta­dium and be in the cen­tre of cul­ture?”

The brand still looks to its her­itage when mov­ing for­ward, such as with the re­cent re­lease of the 501 CT – “Cus­tom Ta­per” – for men and women, which cus­tomises the clas­sic shape ac­cord­ing to feed­back from stylists and fans for a more mod­ern sil­hou­ette. There’s also its com­muter range for ur­ban cy­clists that takes clas­sic shapes such as the 511 and women’s skinny jeans and adds de­tails such as re­flec­tor lin­ings on cuffs, as well as denim jack­ets that let wa­ter bead off in the rain.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.