Levi's to Let Shoppers Design Custom Jeans
Levi Strauss & Co. is transitioning to an operating model for the digital era, leveraging new technology to radically reduce the time it takes to bring a product to market and unveiling a new ability for consumers to design their own pair of jeans, Marc Rosen, executive vice president of the company’s direct-to-consumer business, said this week at ShopTalk.
Beginning this fall, any consumer across the U.S. will be able to customize an individual pair of jeans. They’ll start by picking a base pair of unfinished jeans from one of the brand’s seven most popular fits and choosing a light or dark wash. They’ll then be able to add a wear pattern, whispering of varying location and depth, and destruction of varying shape and size — enabling more than 1,000 possible design combinations.
Consumers will also be able to choose from a select set of images and words they can etch onto their jeans to further personalize them. The jeans will be produced and shipped from the company’s Sky Harbor distribution center in Henderson, NV, and delivered to customer homes in a matter of days.
Self-expression has always been part of the Levi’s brand, Rosen said, but the new offering lets all consumers express themselves through their denim, even those who aren’t crafters. It is made possible by digitizing the jean finishing process with a new imaging tool developed in-house, and by automating the finishing process using existing and eco-friendly laser technology in novel ways.
It’s a big change for the company, which has dubbed this modern-manufacturing operating model Project F.L.X., for "future-led execution." (See video below.)
“It is really a shift from selling what we make to making what we sell,” Rosen said. “That is turning our total business inside out and transforming the way we operate.”
Rosen anticipates changes in four key areas as the company evolves to offer more customized product:
- Product Development: Rather than having to creating a finished product that requires the company to make advanced decisions about where consumer trends are heading, it can defer the decision on how to finish a product until later. “It’s really a transformation from finished goods to a blank canvas,” Rosen said.
- Store Experience: Customization will be available to all via levis.com, and that experience will be reflected in the brand's retail stores as well. The tailor shop for alterations that had once been in the back corner is moving to the center of the store to create a new hub of collaboration. The tailor will inspire shoppers, with additional help from stylists. “Our stores will really transform from being a product showroom to being a collaboration studio," Rosen said.
- Supply Chain: The distribution center now stores a base product, with the finished product actually being made on-site, adding manufacturing to the traditional pick-pack-ship model. That requires employees with a new skills set.
- Marketing: Rather than promoting and clearing product on which the company made early bets — and may have been wrong — Levi's is moving to inspiring consumers with what they can create, with social media at the center and visual search critical to the experience.
Understanding what consumers made, what inspires them and what they want to make next deepens the connection between consumer and brand and will let Levi's lean in to AI to offer an even more personalized shopping experience “It’s our denim and it’s their design. It will give us a whole new level of opportunity,” Rosen said.