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Levi's History

Source: Wikipedia.org


Levi Strauss started the business at the 90 Sacramento Street address in San Francisco . He next moved the location to 62 Sacramento Street then 63 & 65 Sacramento Street .

Jacob Davis, a Latvian Jewish immigrant, was a tailor who frequently purchased bolts of cloth made from denim from Levi Strauss & Co.'s wholesale house. After one of Davis ' customers kept purchasing cloth to reinforce torn pants, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly. Davis did not have the required money to purchase a patent, so he wrote to Strauss suggesting that they go into business together. After Levi accepted Jacob's offer, on May 20, 1873, the two men received U.S. Patent 139,121 from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patented rivet was later incorporated into the company's jean design and advertisements. Contrary to an advertising campaign suggesting that Levi Strauss sold his first jeans to gold miners during the California Gold Rush (which peaked in 1849), the manufacturing of denim overalls only began in the 1870s. The company then created their first pair of Levis 501 Jeans in the 1890s, a style that went on to become the world's best selling item of clothing.

photo of an advertising sign for Levi Strauss & Co. painted on a brick wall in Woodland, California  

Levi Strauss advertising sign

Modern jeans began to appear in the 1920s, but sales were largely confined to the working people of the western United States , such as cowboys, lumberjacks, and railroad workers. Leviís jeans apparently were first introduced to the East during the dude ranch craze of the 1930s, when vacationing Easterners returned home with tales (and usually examples) of the hard-wearing pants with rivets. Another boost came in World War II, when blue jeans were declared an essential commodity and were sold only to people engaged in defense work. From a company with fifteen salespeople, two plants, and almost no business east of the Mississippi in 1946, the organization grew in thirty years to include a sales force of more than 22,000, with 50 plants and offices in 35 countries.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, Levi's jeans became popular among a wide range of youth subcultures, including greasers, mods, rockers, hippies and skinheads. Levi's popular shrink-to-fit 501s were sold in a unique sizing arrangement; the indicated size referred to the size of the jeans prior to shrinking, and the shrinkage was substantial. The company still produces these unshrunk, uniquely sized jeans, and they are still Levi's number one selling product. Although popular lore (abetted by company marketing) holds that the original design remains unaltered, this is not the case: the crotch rivet and waist cinch were removed during World War II to conform to War Production Board requirements to conserve metal, and was not replaced after the war. Additionally, the back pocket rivets, which had been covered in denim in 1937 due to complaints they scratched furniture, were removed completely in the 1950s.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f1/Levi%27s_506_inside.jpg/220px-Levi%27s_506_inside.jpg     

Levi's 506 inside  

1990s and later

By the 1990s, the brand was facing competition from other brands and cheaper products from overseas, and began accelerating the pace of its US factory closures and its use of offshore subcontracting agreements. In 1991, Levi Strauss faced a scandal involving pants made in the Northern Mariana Islands, where some 3% of Levi's jeans sold annually with the Made in the USA label were shown to have been made by Chinese laborers under what the United States Department of Labor called "slavelike" conditions. Today, most Levi's jeans are made outside the US , though a few of the higher end, more expensive styles are still made in the U.S.  

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/Levi%27sOutletStore.JPG/220px-Levi%27sOutletStore.JPG

A Levi's outlet store in Canada

Cited for sub-minimum wages, seven-day work weeks with 12-hour shifts, poor living conditions and other indignities, Tan Holdings Corporation, Levi Strauss' Marianas subcontractor, paid what were then the largest fines in U.S. labor history, distributing more than $9 million in restitution to some 1,200 employees. Levi Strauss claimed no knowledge of the offenses, then severed ties to the Tan family and instituted labor reforms and inspection practices in its offshore facilities.

The activist group Fuerza Unida (United Force) was formed following the January 1990 closure of a plant in San Antonio, Texas, in which 1,150 seamstresses, some of whom had worked for Levi Strauss for decades, saw their jobs exported to Costa Rica. During the mid- and late-1990s, Fuerza Unida picketed the Levi Strauss headquarters in San Francisco and staged hunger strikes and sit-ins in protest of the company's labor policies.

The company took on multi-billion dollar debt in February 1996 to help finance a series of leveraged stock buyouts among family members. Shares in Levi Strauss stock are not publicly traded; the firm is today owned almost entirely by indirect descendants and collateral relatives of Levi Strauss, whose four nephews inherited the San Francisco dry goods firm after their uncle's death in 1902. The corporation's bonds are traded publicly, as are shares of the company's Japanese affiliate, Levi Strauss Japan K.K.

In June 1996, the company offered to pay its workers an unusual dividend of up to $750 million in six years' time, having halted an employee stock plan at the time of the internal family buyout. However, the company failed to make cash flow targets, and no worker dividends were paid. In 2002, Levi Strauss began a close business collaboration with Walmart, producing a special line of "Signature" jeans and other clothes for exclusive sale in Walmart stores until 2006. Levi Strauss Signature jeans can now be purchased at several stores in the US , Canada , Australia , New Zealand , India , Pakistan and Japan .

According to the New York Times, Levi Strauss leads the apparel industry in trademark infringement cases, filing nearly 100 lawsuits against competitors since 2001. Most cases center on the alleged imitation of Levi's back pocket double arc stitching pattern ( U.S. trademark #1,139,254), which Levi filed for trademark in 1978. Levi's has successfully sued Guess?, Polo Ralph Lauren, Esprit Holdings, Zegna, Zumiez and Lucky Brand Jeans, among other companies.[23]

By 2007, Levi Strauss was again said to be profitable after declining sales in nine of the previous ten years.[24] Its total annual sales, of just over $4 billion, were $3 billion less than during its peak performance in the mid-1990s.[25] After more than two decades of family ownership, rumors of a possible public stock offering were floated in the media in July 2007. In 2009, it was noted in the media for selling Jeans on interest-free credit, due to the global recession. In 2010, the company partnered with Filson, an outdoor goods manufacturer in Seattle , to produce a high-end line of jackets and workwear.

On May 8, 2013, the NFL's San Francisco 49ers announced that Levi Strauss & Co. had purchased the naming rights to their new stadium in Santa Clara, California. The naming rights deal calls for Levi's to pay $220.3 million to the city of Santa Clara and the 49ers over twenty years, with an option to extend the deal for another five years for around $75 million.

 

Levi's by the Numbers - Levi's Advertising - Levi's History - Levi's Organization


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