Levi's Latest: Turning Old Jeans Into High-Concept Furniture

An Eames chair “melts” into an olive tree, wearing denim fungi

Levi’s, which has been honing its direct-to-consumer strengths, is making a denim splash with the design elite.

For Dutch Design Week, the company teamed up with the Visionary Lab, a creative agency in Amsterdam, and Vitra, the high-end furniture company, recycling old jeans and cast-off chairs into blue-hued conversation starters.

The Icons Re/Outfitted exhibit is meant to “give discarded chairs a second life,” the Visionary Lab says in its release, “transforming them into works of art that spark meaningful conversations about sustainability.”

The collaboration between design and fashion started with cast-off chairs designed by Charles & Ray Eames, Verner Panton and George Nelson. Participating artists then included end-of-life Levi’s, digital 3D weaving and biotextiles, with each upcycled piece, making a statement about waste.

While the gallery-level exhibition is hardly likely to translate into mainstream sales, it is another example of how far Levi Strauss is going to sell consumers on the company’s extensive sustainability initiatives. Those include used and vintage efforts, of course. But Levi’s is also making a big deal about collections like WellThread, made from 100% transitional cotton, constructed to be easily recycled.

That commitment is doubtless helping Levi’s better connect with young consumers in the company’s core audience, but the San Francisco-based company is up against multiple challenges.

Earlier this month, the retailer announced flat quarterly revenues of $1.51 billion. D2C sales jumped 14%, with broad-based gains in the company’s mainline and outlet stores. And ecommerce revenues grew 19%. Wholesale revenues, however, fell 8%.

Net income sank 31% to $112 million, compared to $161 million in the year-ago period. North America was weaker than international markets.

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