As the most iconic piece of clothing of all time, Levi’s 501s have a rich history. Indeed, people have been customizing their 501s since the very beginning—and the beginning was a long time ago: Levi’s received its rivet-pocket patent on May 20, 1873. To commemorate this year’s Levi’s 501 Day on May 20, the brand has partnered with Karla Welch, stylist to Tracee Ellis Ross, Sarah Paulson, and Justin Bieber. For Welch, who launched her “x Karla” concept of democratic essentials last year with Hanes, the collaboration means reinventing not just what vintage looks like, but reimagining what the future of vintage could be.
“Everything is very much idea-based,” Welch says of the development of the new nine-piece collection, which has some of its roots in her childhood. An abbreviated pair of banded-hem knickers look like something she wore as a little girl growing up in British Columbia, and the fringe detailing on the sleeves of a trucker jacket are a nod to Welch’s favorite Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. An exaggerated wide-leg silhouette and a pleated style, meanwhile, take their cues from the time Welch spent mining the brand’s expansive vintage archives.
Opting to work with only the original indigo, Welch makes the point that you have to break in your favorite 501s. “You wear your jeans and you get a story out of them,” she remarks. As for putting new spins on the classic, Levi’s global CMO Jen Sey concedes that after years of trepidation around this type of partnership, leaning into reinvention is the future for Levi’s. “Our collaborators want to work with our most classic products and it’s a way to keep them fresh and new and timeless.”[embedded content]
Timeless, and timely. Welch’s clients star in the campaign alongside other women she admires including SZA and Yara Shahidi. The video features the track “Yang Yang,” donated by Yoko Ono in support of Everytown for Gun Safety. It dates to 1973, was originally released on the album Approximately Infinite Universe, and features the lines: “And leave your private institution/Get down to real communication/Leave your scene of destruction/And join us in revolution.” At Welch’s request, Levi’s is also making a donation to the gun-control organization. “It’s really about equal rights to safety, and while we’re not proscribing an answer, we do want to support the conversation,” Sey said of the company’s support of the cause.
The Levi’s x Karla 501 Day Collection will be available on 501 Day–May 20–in select Levi’s stores, Levi.com, and Dover Street Market New York. #LEVIS #XKARLA #EVERYTOWN