Levi’s is the world’s leading manufacturer of pants, particularly famous for its iconic blue denim jeans, registered under the Levi’s trademark.
The company also produces tailored slacks, jackets, hats, shirts, skirts, belts, and licenses the manufacture of novelty items.
The headquarters of the company is located in San Francisco.
The company was founded by Levi Strauss (1829-1902), a Bavarian immigrant who arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush in 1850, selling dry goods to miners.
After learning about the miners’ need for durable pants, Strauss hired a tailor to make garments out of tent canvas.
Later, he switched to denim and added copper rivets to pocket seams.
In 1853, Strauss formed a merchandising partnership with his two brothers, Jonas and Louis.
After Strauss passed away in 1902, leadership of the company passed to four nephews and, after 1918, to in-laws, the Haas family.
The company’s most significant growth occurred after 1946, when it abandoned wholesaling and focused on manufacturing clothing under its own label.
By the 1960s, Levi’s jeans and other denim wear, originally worn by American cowboys, became popular worldwide. The company went public in 1971 and was operating in 50 countries.
In 1985, the Haas family, along with other descendants of Levi Strauss, organized a leveraged buyout, which returned the company to private ownership.
In 1986, Levi Strauss & Co. introduced a new line of casual pants called Dockers in the United States, which was released in Europe in 1994.
During the 1980s, Levi Strauss closed nearly 60 of its U.S. manufacturing plants due to increasing competition and financial difficulties, and began shifting production overseas.
In 1990, the company faced a class-action lawsuit alleging that it had closed its plant in San Antonio, Texas, and relocated it to Costa Rica to avoid paying pension, disability, and other benefits to its workers.
The case was eventually dismissed.
- LATER ON
The last two U.S. manufacturing plants were closed in 2004.
However, in the following decade, some production of Levi Strauss items returned to the United States.
In 1991, an investigation found that some products Levi Strauss had claimed to be made in the United States were actually manufactured in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, by Chinese laborers working under illegal sweatshop conditions.
The subcontractor managing the island factories was fined nearly $10 million by the U.S. government, and Levi Strauss subsequently took steps to improve labor standards and inspection practices for its offshore suppliers.
In 1996, Levi’s Vintage Clothing (LVC), a line of reproductions of clothing items from the Levi Strauss Archives, was introduced worldwide.
The company launched Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. brand in 2003, a more affordable line of jeans and casual wear.
In 2007, Levi Strauss partnered with the French company ModeLabs Group to develop a series of Levi’s-branded mobile telephones.
Despite these moves, sales stagnated, and in 2011, Levi Strauss hired Chip Bergh as CEO.
He was credited with turning the company around by implementing various changes, such as modernizing its e-commerce division and expanding into overseas markets.
In March 2019, Levi Strauss went public again, and its IPO raised more than $620 million. Levi Strauss & Co. is an iconic American brand that has been a part of the cultural zeitgeist for generations.
As the world’s leading maker of pants, the company has made significant contributions to the fashion industry and popular culture.
In recent years, the company has faced challenges due to increased competition and changing consumer preferences.