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It’s in your jeans

CATHERINE RHEA ROY
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INTERVIEW Jeans historian Lynn Downey swings by India on the Asia leg of her vintage Levi Strauss road show

Have you heard the story of the Bavarian immigrant who started out working in his family’s dry goods business and later went on to revolutionise the world of clothing by founding blue jeans? He was Levi Strauss, a name that is today, synonymous with jeans. The brand has been thriving for 140 years now and has strongly influenced popular culture and consumer behaviour.

Marking the anniversary of Levi Global, and the company’s presence in India for over two decades, they put together a road show that illustrates the origin and evolution of blue jeans as everyone knows them today.

Documenting the history of Levi Strauss and Co, is their company historian Lynn Downey, who is also responsible for putting together the road show that showcases how jeans have evolved from the 1890s right till 1989. “A man from Bavaria created one of the most common American garments. We are an American brand and we want to tell the story of where we come from,” she began.

Everything becomes history

The archive was started in 1989. “It creates an emotional connect for the employees; it’s exciting for them because they feel like a part of the continuum. Everything they are creating is going into history. The archive is useful in management – the past is there to reach out to if you need it; it’s a resource.” She picks up an original pair of blue Levi that lay next to the pair signed by the Rolling Stones, “These have had a hard life,” Lynn says handling them with gloves. “It was probably owned by a cowboy judging by the fade patterns.” We then discuss Levi’s branding strategies, the advertisements in watercolours that pop and an assortment of corporate memorabilia.

In the centre of the road show are railway tracks and girders with replicas of vintage Levi, replete with double arches on the back pockets, the red and white tab that identified an ‘original’ Levi, and rivets, among many other signature marks. There’s even an amusing anecdote of how the crotch rivet at the base of the button fly was removed as it heated up when the wearer crouched before a campfire.

CATHERINE RHEA ROY

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