Levi’s wants you to stop buying so many jeans

Yearly, style manufacturers manufacture 6 billion pairs of jeans at an infinite value to the planet, utilizing thousands and thousands of gallons of water whereas spewing chemical compounds and greenhouse gases into the setting. Levi Strauss & Co., the $4.5 billion denim large, wants you to stop buying so many pairs.

The model’s latest advertisements, which launch this week, urge customers to “Purchase Higher, Put on Longer.” The marketing campaign is designed to spotlight overconsumption within the style business, which churns out greater than 100 billion clothes yearly for less than 8 billion individuals.

Environmentalists typically discuss how we must always purchase fewer garments, however it’s a counterintuitive message coming from Levi’s, which dominates the worldwide denim business. Whereas the corporate has been working to produce its jeans extra sustainably, that is the primary time it has acknowledged that these incremental enhancements alone aren’t going to save the planet.

However can Levi’s truly cut back the amount it sells? And as a publicly traded firm with shareholder pressures, can it proceed to develop its income even whereas promoting much less? These are essential questions not only for Levi’s however for all the $2.5 trillion style business, whose enterprise mannequin facilities on pushing out the newest developments and engaging clients to purchase increasingly more.


Shifting towards a round system

This effort to deal with overconsumption is extra than simply an promoting marketing campaign, insists Jeffrey Hogue, Levi’s chief sustainability officer. He says departments throughout the corporate are growing methods to “deal with the systemic levers of overconsumption.”

At its core, the purpose is to create income streams that don’t depend on promoting new merchandise. That is one thing that environmental organizations just like the Ellen MacArthur Basis have been advocating for years. In a round economic system, corporations wouldn’t want to extract uncooked supplies to make new merchandise, however somewhat restore, resell, and in the end recycle items as a substitute. “This implies radically rethinking the business’s enterprise mannequin,” says Francois Souchet, the muse’s style lead.

[Photo: courtesy Levi’s]

At Levi’s, the shift towards a extra round system is already in movement. In 2015, the corporate launched “Tailor Shops,” the place clients can customise and restore merchandise. Final October, it additionally launched a resale website, Levi’s Secondhand, the place clients should buy and promote used jeans. For now, these ideas generate a small fraction of total income, however the model hopes to develop them rapidly, probably displacing new merchandise. “Like all new enterprise mission, there’s a startup interval, the place you have to consider in a good suggestion and scale it up,” says Paul Dillinger, Levi’s head of world product innovation. “You’ll be able to’t anticipate it to change into a powerful income in a single day.”

These new approaches will dovetail with the work that Levi’s has been doing over the previous decade to lower its environmental footprint. As well as to growing less-water-intensive materials and manufacturing practices, the corporate is dashing up manufacturing instances to higher adapt to demand and keep away from extra stock.

There’s some proof that client conduct might change within the aftermath of the pandemic. In a worldwide survey of 27,000 those who got here out in October, GlobeScan discovered that 77% of customers had been focused on sturdy merchandise and 53% had been focused on having manufacturers reuse, restore, and recycle merchandise they’ve purchased. Greater than half had been focused on buying fewer issues generally.

Hogue sees this as a possibility for Levi’s: By showcasing its sustainability practices, it may possibly entice customers who need to purchase fewer objects however of a better high quality. After all, there’s an inherent contradiction right here, and Levi’s will not be immune to market pressures and client developments.

The pattern downside

Souchet factors out that when manufacturers start constructing round methods, they have to additionally redesign merchandise so they’re sturdy sufficient to final many years and thru a number of homeowners. In some methods, Levi’s merchandise are already suited to resale, as many of its designs are classics. Sturdiness is entwined within the model’s origin story: Levi Strauss launched the corporate in 1853, within the midst of the California Gold Rush, creating jeans for gold miners that might stand up to put on. He used a tricky denim materials and integrated copper rivets to reinforce locations probably to tear, like pocket corners. The model nonetheless makes use of many of those design parts immediately.


However simply because a product is ready to final a very long time doesn’t imply somebody will proceed sporting it. The Ellen McArthur Basis has discovered that the variety of instances a client wears a garment earlier than throwing it out has plummeted over the previous 20 years: Many individuals put on an merchandise as few as seven instances earlier than tossing it. The style business drives customers’ need for brand spanking new kinds, and Levi’s isn’t any exception: The model continually creates new washes and silhouettes relying on present developments.

[Photo: courtesy Levi’s]

It’s probably we’ll see one other certainly one of these shifts quickly. In a current earnings name, Levi’s executives mentioned customers had been more and more on the lookout for unfastened, saggy jeans within the aftermath of the pandemic, displacing the stretchy, skinny jeans which have been widespread for the previous decade.

Customers’ altering tastes current a problem to Levi’s because it makes an attempt to curb overconsumption. Dillinger says the corporate will hold paying shut consideration to what clients are on the lookout for and accommodate their calls for. However the model may also use its platform to steer them towards items that may stand the take a look at of time. As an illustration, Levi’s leans closely into the 501 jean, which first got here out within the late 1800s and remains to be a top-selling product immediately. “We would like to provide fewer, higher choices,” Dillinger says.

Nonetheless, he admits that combating overconsumption is a brand new path for Levi’s, one that may take time to get proper. Each the corporate and its clients are beginning to reckon with what the style business will seem like when individuals purchase much less. “It’s all a giant puzzle and admittedly, it’s a little bit scary,” he says. “I really feel like I’m in a classroom and the instructor has known as on me to reply a query I don’t absolutely know the reply to. However concern shouldn’t stop us from exploring what the way forward for style may very well be like.”