Levi’s History
Levi’s History

Levi’s History

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  • Published: October 31, 2017
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Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&CO) Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&CO) is a privately held clothing company known worldwide for its Levi’s brand of denim jeans. It was founded in 1853 when Levi Strauss came from Bavaria, Germany to San Francisco, California to open a west coast branch of his brothers’ New York dry goods business.

Although the company began producing denim overalls in the 1870s, modern jeans were not produced until the 1920s. The company briefly experimented (in the 1970s) with employee ownership and a public stock listing, but remains owned and controlled by descendants and relatives of Levi Strauss’ four nephews. Organization Levi Strauss & Co. is a worldwide corporation organized into three geographic divisions: Levi Strauss, North Americas (LSNA), based in the San Francisco headquarters; Levi Strauss Europe (LSE), based in Brussels; and Asia Pacific Division (APD), based in Singapore.

The company employs a staff of approximately 8,850 people worldwide and owns and develops a few brands. Levi’s, the main brand, was founded in 1873 in San Francisco, specializing in riveted denim jeans and different lines of casual and street fashion. From the early 1960s through the mid-1970s, Levi Strauss experienced explosive growth in its business as the more casual look of the 60s and 70s ushered in the “blue jeans craze” and served as a catalyst for the brand. Levis, under the leadership of Jay Walter Haas Sr. , Peter Haas Sr., Paul Glasco, and George P. Simpkins Sr. , expanded the firm’s clothing line by adding new fashions and models, including stoned washed jeans through the acquisition of Great Western Garment Co.,(GWG), a Canadian clothin

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g manufacturer, acquired by Levis.

GWG was responsible for the introduction of the modern “stone washing” technique, still in use by Levi Strauss. Mr. Simpkins is credited with the company’s record-paced expansion of its manufacturing capacity from fewer than 16 plants to more than 63 plants nationwide from 1964 through 1974. Perhaps most impressive, however, was that Levis’ expansion under Simpkins was accomplished without a single unionized employee as a result of Levis’ and the Hass families’ strong stance on human rights and Simpkins’ use of “pay for performance” manufacturing at the sewing machine operator level up.

As a result, Levis’ plants were perhaps the highest performing, best organized, and cleanest textile facilities of their time. Levis even piped in massive amounts of air conditioning into its press plants, which were known in the industry to be notoriously hot, for the comfort of Levis’ workers. 2004 saw a sharp decline of GWG in the face of global outsourcing, so the company was closed and the Edmonton manufacturing plant shut down. Dockers were launched in 1986. Sold largely through department store chains, helped the company grow through the mid-1990s, as denim sales began to fade.

Levi Strauss attempted to sell the brand in 2004 to relieve part of the company’s $2 billion outstanding debt. Launched in 2003, Levi Strauss Signature features Jeanswear and casual wear. In November 2007, Levi’s released a mobile phone in co-operation with models. Many of the phone’s cosmetic attributes are customizable at the point of purchase.

History Jacob Davis was a tailor who frequently purchased

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bolts of cloth made from hemp 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 Levi suggesting that they both go into business together. After Levi accepted Jacob’s offer, on May 20, 1873, the two men received 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. Modern jeans began to appear in the 1920s. In the 1950s and 1960s, 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 was related 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 still sell very well. The 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 six subsidiary factories on the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth, 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. Cited for sub-minimal 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 US 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 (primarily Latina) — 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 relatives of Levi Strauss, whose four nephews inherited the San Francisco dry goods firm after their uncle’s death in

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