Levi shoppers will be able to design own ‘greener’ blue jeans

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Shoppers will soon be able to design their own Levi jeans, using new laser technology developed by the company.

Marc Rosen, Levi’s president of direct to consumer, said customers would be able to decide what colour they wanted their jeans and “the level of destruction” – wear and tear – they wanted and where they wanted it.

He told delegates at the World Retail Congress in Amsterdam that the service would launch online in the US in the autumn, adding “where we lead, others usually follow”.

Rosen said the innovation showed how the company was tapping into the latest retail trends of personalisation, customisation and sustainability.

“The consumer is changing faster than ever, and technology is evolving faster than ever,” he said. “It’s up to us to find the intersection points and seize the opportunities.”

The inspiration came out of a two-year “quest” to reduce the amount of chemicals and water used in manufacturing the company’s classic blue jeans and denim jackets.

It led to the development of new laser technology which can be used to fade and finish the jeans in a fraction of the time, while also being greener.

Rosen said it had cut a labour-intensive process of 18-20 steps, taking up to 12 minutes per pair of jeans, to a three-step method done in 90 seconds.

He painted a picture of how the innovation was also shaking up the company’s entire business model, from production to distribution and marketing.

“It’s a change in our business model from selling what we make to making what we sell,” he said.

“In product model it’s a shift from producing finished goods to producing a blank canvas. Consumers will then be able to decide what colour they want their jeans to be, what level of destruction they want and where they want that placed on the product.”

This work could be done in distribution centres, closer to the customer, rather than in factories and he suggested stores would “shift from being a product showroom to become a collaboration studio.”

He added: “If you think about a traditional store, the consumer comes in and sees stacks of finished goods that we finished earlier in the process and made the decision about what they might like.

“Here they’re able to come in and take a blank canvas and design their own product. That elevates the role of our stylists and our tailors. They’re some of the best at customising our product but now they get to share that experience with consumers.

“The tailor shop now moves to the centre of the store so that they can work with consumers to inspire them.

“Finally, in marketing its a shift from promoting and clearing what we have, to inspiring consumers with what they can create.”

By giving customers more say in what they bought and making the production process more flexible he also suggested it could help cut waste

“We all have that clearance rack at the back of the store that’s decisions we made too early if we can reduce that and focus our marketing dollars on inspiration then it’s all about what consumers can create.”

Rosen said the company realised that this might not be for everyone and would not forsake what had built the 166-year-old brand.

“For the 501 guy who comes into our store and wants to buy a new pair of 501s, we’re still going to be there,” he said.

“However, we hope that he’s also going to see more and more consumers designing their very own product and he’s going to be inspired to design his own product as well.”