Inside Retail: There’s been a lot of talk about the death of the skinny jean. Do you think skinny jeans are falling out of fashion, and if so, why?
Karen Riley-Grant: The global pandemic has touched all aspects of life, including our wardrobes. After a year spent indoors, looser fits and relaxed silhouettes are continuing to see a rise in demand, with comfort prioritised above the rigidity of a skinny fit.
While this trend is here to stay, I don’t think skinny jeans are truly “dying”. Fashion is cyclical and as trend cycles shorten, we are seeing nostalgic styles from just 10 years ago return to the forefront at a much faster pace.
IR: What are some new denim styles that Levi’s is seeing consumer demand for at the moment?
KRG: As consumers increasingly work, study and socialise closer to home, versatility is more important than ever. Alongside the timeless sensibility of the original 501, we are seeing increased love for loose-hanging, wide-leg and flared styles popularised in the 70s and 90s, silhouettes that balance our need for comfort and function with a desire for elevated styling.
The High Loose is one of our newer styles that we are seeing do very well for women as it features a loose leg with lots of comfortability while offering that cool, classic 90s look. For men, the Stay Loose offers our customers that ultimate 90s look for a casual jean.
IR: Levi’s recently launched its second genderless collection. What has the consumer response to these collections been like?
KRG: We’re so excited about our latest dual gender range, the new Red Tab Sweats Collection. The ultra-comfortable sweats are crafted in a weighted French terry that captures a vintage aesthetic, but reimagined for today through colour, pattern and style combinations.
Alongside our core ranges, gender neutrality has been built into several of our collaborations, and we have seen an overwhelmingly positive response from consumers. From Stranger Things to Lego, we’ve noticed more and more young consumers are less concerned with how a product is labelled, but instead focused on how it looks, feels, and fits.
IR: What insights can you share about designing and marketing genderless fashion?
KRG: Genderless fashion is also about prioritising self-expression, equality and empowerment beyond what’s on a label. Alongside removing gender from products, it’s about championing inclusivity and putting principles before profits — whether through design or through other means of action and activism.
This year’s Pride 2021 collection, “All Pronouns. All Love” was a great representation of this: we developed a unisex collection that was available to shop in store and online at Levis.com.au, celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community and exploring the importance of learning and respecting proper pronoun use. One hundred per cent of net proceeds were donated to OutRight Action International, an organisation that works to advance the rights of LGBTQIA+ people all over the world. In Australia, we also focused on real stories of big love, understanding and optimism – collaborating with not-for-profit Minus18, to co-create a valuable Gender-Inclusive Language Guide. This resource sheds light on the topic of proper pronoun use, providing simple tips that Aussies can use to bring inclusion into their day-today lives and show allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community.
From a design standpoint, our original 501 portfolio was crafted to fit a variety of bodies, and this anti-fit shape has since extended to other Levi’s fits, from the 505, Ribcage Straight, Loose Straight and our 551Z fit, which launched earlier this year. Irrespective of gender, our design teams work collaboratively to land the best fit to service different sizes and shapes first and foremost, so people around the world can feel comfortable expressing their identity and personal style.
IR: What is the Buy Better, Wear Longer campaign and how does it fit into Levi’s broader sustainability efforts?
KRG: Buy Better, Wear Longer encapsulates our ongoing efforts to drive more sustainable production practices, and our investment into material and technology innovations such as Organic Cotton and Cottonized Hemp. We recognise that fashion production and consumption have reached unsustainable levels: between 2000 and 2020, global clothing production doubled. We are not exempt from this problem at Levi’s, and whether through the scaling of Water<Less manufacturing or our Worker Well-being programs, we are continuously working on ways to make a difference.
Buy Better, Wear Longer also represents our commitment to raising awareness about the shared responsibility on the environmental impacts of apparel production and consumption. We encourage consumers to be more intentional about their apparel choices; to buy less, wear each item longer, or to use our in-store Tailor Shops to extend the life of their garments.
IR: Given your previous experience in the APAC region, are there any interesting consumer or retail trends in that part of the world that you have your eye on?
KRG: A trend I’m continuing to see is the increased engagement with the secondhand and vintage market. It’s also a personal passion of mine! We’re seeing younger consumers fuel the circular economy by shopping vintage at higher levels than any other generation – they love the nostalgia of the pieces they find and vintage helps meet their desire to be unique and authentic. Vintage provides a means for discovery and requires very little in the way of natural resources. Instead of fitting into standard retail models, young consumers are seeking something different and sustainable; vintage satisfies that desire on many levels and is something we actively take part in through our Levi’s Authorized Vintage range.