Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss & Co.

Infobox Company
company_name = Levi Strauss & Co.
company_type = Private
foundation = 1853
location = San Francisco, California
key_people = John Anderson, CEO & President of LS&CO
industry = Clothing
products =
revenue =
operating_income =
net_income =
num_employees =
parent =
subsid =
homepage = http://www.levi.com
footnotes =

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.


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. [ [http://www.levi.com Levi's® (Europe) ] ]

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 clothing 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 airconditioning 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. [http://www.conestogac.on.ca/~sfinlay/IMC/cases/LevisGWG.htm] Dockers was launched in 1986. [ [http://www.dockers.com Dockers.com ] ] 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. [ [http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/11/BUGT5EKGG91.DTL&hw=advertising&sn=001&sc=1000 Levi's tries to polish Dockers image / New ad campaign aimed at attracting women customers ] ]

Launched in 2003, Levi Strauss Signature features jeanswear and casualwear. [http://www.levistrausssignature.com Levi Strauss Signature (R) - Stylish fits and finishes with a heritage of craftsmanship and quality ] ] In November 2007, Levi's released a mobile phone in co-operation with ModeLabs. Many of the phone's cosmetic attributes are customisable at the point of purchase.


Jacob Davis was a tailor who frequently purchased 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.

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. [ [http://www.cleanclothes.org/companies/levi5-5-98.htm May 1998, Case file Levi Strauss & Co ] ] [ [http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Weekend/FL18Jp16.html Weekend Standard - The island that lost its shirts ] ] [ [http://www.house.gov/georgemiller/cnmiarticle.html The New York Times; July 18, 1993: Made in the U.S.A.? Hard Labor on a Pacific Island/A special report.; Saipan Sweatshops Are No American Dream ] ] 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. [ [http://www.accd.edu/pac/lrc/chicanaleaders/fuerzaunida.htm Fuerza Unida ] ] 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. [ [http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/fplpf.html Fuerza Unida ] ] [ [http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/26/147.html Fuerza Unida, Mujer a Mujer: Firsthand Account of Levi's ] ] [ [http://www.zmag.org/levihunger.htm FUERZA UNIDA 710 New Laredo Hwy ] ]

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 1902. [ [http://www.levistrauss.com/Financials Levi Strauss & Co. - Financials ] ] Levi's bonds are traded publicly, as are shares of the company's Japan 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. [cite news|title=Levi Strauss Offers To Pay A Dividend To Workers | work=The New York Times | date=June 13, 1996 | author=James Sterngold] In 2002, Levi Strauss began a close business collaboration with Wal-Mart, producing a special line of "Signature" jeans and other clothes for exclusive sale in Wal-Mart stores until 2006. [ [http://www.cio.com/archive/071503/levis.html Supply Chain Partnerships: How Levi's Got Its Jeans into Wal-Mart - CIO.com - Business Technology Leadership ] ] Levi Strauss Signature jeans can now be purchased at several stores in the US, Canada and Japan.

The company is now Wal-Mart's largest worldwide strategic partner, conforming to Wal-Mart's business and labor practices. [http://www.cio.com/archive/071503/levis.html] [http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html] Levi Strauss & Co. closed 58 US manufacturing plants between 1981 and 1990, sending 25% of its sewing operations overseas. [ [http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html The Wal-Mart You Don't Know | Fast Company ] ] Levi's accelerated US plant closings through the 1990s, closing its last US domestic plant (in San Antonio, Texas) in January 2004. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20040109/ai_n11433720] [http://www.georgebrainard.com/editorial/page6.html]

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] ). [ [http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=registration&entry=1139254 Latest Status Info ] ] Levi's has sued Guess?, Esprit Holdings, Zegna, Zumiez and Lucky Brand Jeans, among other companies. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/29/business/29jeans.html Levi’s Turns to Suing Its Rivals - New York Times ] ]

By 2007, Levi Strauss was again said to be profitable after declining sales in nine of the previous ten years. [http://www.mercurynews.com/businessheadlines/ci_6346739] Its total annual sales, of just over $4 billion, were $3 billion less than during its peak performance in the mid 1990s. [ [http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-levi11apr11,1,293145.story Levi Strauss earnings rise 61% in 1st quarter - Los Angeles Times ] ] After more than two decades of family ownership, rumors of a possible public stock offering were floated in the media in July 2007. [ [http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2007/07/11/PM200707114.html Marketplace: Levi's may be dressed up to go public ] ]



*cite book
first = Carin T.
last = Ford
year = 2004
month = April
title = Levi Strauss: The Man Behind Blue Jeans (Famous Inventors)
publisher = Enslow Publishers
id = ISBN 0-7660-2249-8

*cite book
first = Art
last = Roth
title = The Levi's story

*cite book
last = Van Steenwyk
year = 1988
month = June
title = Levi Strauss: The Blue Jeans Man
publisher = Walker & Company
id = ISBN 0-8027-6795-8

External links

* [http://www.levistrauss.com/ Corporate site]
* [http://www.levisstore.com/home/index.jsp Official site]
* [http://www.levistrausssignature.com Levi Strauss Signature]
* [http://www.modelabs.com/levis Levi's Mobile Phone official site]
* [http://www.levi.com/project501 Levi's Project 501 Design Challenge]
* [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/01/27/LVO9UL6NA.DTL Levi's Sponsorship of Project Runway]

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