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We just had the awesome opportunity to speak with Maurizio Donadi, Global Senior Vice President of Levi’sXX. Levi’s XX is an independent creative division of Levi Strauss & Co, which houses two exclusive brands, Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Levis Made & Crafted. He granted us this exclusive interview, discussing the amazing brand that stems from the household name we all know to be synonymous with denim.
Denim Therapy: Lets start from the beginning.
Levi’s Made & Crafted: First of all, I am not a designer. What was interesting and inspiring for me in the beginning was the opportunity to work on a project so deeply rooted in history (with the Levi’s® Vintage Clothing line) and on bringing a sense of modernity and true innovation into the Levi’s world with the Levi’s® Made & Crafted™ line. Both brands are about high quality, fanatical attention to details and serious craftsmanship. It is indeed a unique project.
DT: Are there other denim brands you consider your immediate competition? How do you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of popular denim brands afloat right now?
Levi’s M&C: Our brands are both product and lifestyle driven instead of category-driven. For example, we design the shirt, sweater, jacket, chinos and jeans all at the same time within a story, a concept narrative. For us, we set very high standards and look at brands, companies and projects in the market that are not necessarily fashion/apparel related.
DT: Does your team have any pre-designing rituals?
Levi’s M&C: We are all engaged in the design process together from design and merchandising to product development and production. We as a team have an exercise internally called: The Creative Week. This ritual is more about developing the origin together until we each set off to get it done!
DT: Describe the person who represents your ideal target customer – the customer you have in mind when you’re planning a collection.
Levi’s M&C: We typically design into what the brands’ foundation is – not necessarily for a customer. The definition of customer is debatable. Fundamentally we have a dialogue with those that have a deep respect for the history of denim and most often for Levi’s®. And that is who we are. However, we are lucky that we are capturing a new type of audience who is intrigued about our point of view so we have an opportunity to educate them about what it is/who we are in new ways. With Levi’s® Made & Crafted™, we focus on quality, details and functional relevance to modern needs like travel and work, in a city or small town. The flexibility encourages mixing of our pieces with others because in the end, we want our personalities to show through, not just the clothes. All of that is for us very innovative, subtle and elevated. This creative positive tension between heritage and innovation is a magnetic story. It is also a story about testing, experimenting and finding new solutions.
DT: Can you give us hint about what’s next?
Levi’s M&C: Every retailer is free to buy what they think is the best assortment for their clientele. So if one shops at: Fred Segal in Santa Monica; Barney’s New York; Liberty in London; Fred Segal Melrose; Present in east London; American Rag LA; Brooklyn Denim; Isetan Tokyo; Antonia in Milan; Net-a-Porter, Mr Porter and LNCC online; and many others around the world, one will find a very personalized selection and depth. What’s next from us will not be necessarily a trend but nothing else than a strong point of view on fits and finishes. We design with longevity in mind, not for a quick seasonal trend. However I think that our Made IN USA assortment for both brands is quite remarkable in terms of quality, the natural aging of fabrics and original fits selection.
DT: What would be your dream collaboration? Any plans of that in the future?
Levi’s M&C: With Levi Strauss himself! Therefore, no plans for the future.
DT: What are the most popular washes/fits in the line? What are your favourites, and how would you style them:
Levi’s M&C: Levi’s® Made & Crafted™ has an amazing selection of classic chinos in a range of fits and finishes. The Sander Cinch, for example is a modern interpretation of the Levi’s® Spring Bottom pant, a style Levi’s® started producing 1880. For women, the Pins Skinny is a deep blue coloured classic skinny fit jean. It has hand sponged ageing that gives it a natural worn feel.
DT: Do you have any favourite/least favourite denim trends right now?
Levi’s M&C: Everything that is truly authentic, simple, well made and fun is a good trend to me.
DT: Street style and style blogs are huge in the industry right now as a source of inspiration, influencing the high-end labels rather than vice versa. How much does street style influence your designing?
Levi’s M&C: The galaxy of blogs is an interesting one. And as in a real galaxy you can find stars/blogs that are exploding, imploding, disoriented and gone mad. Some of them are a case study, some are fascinating and some are truly rubbish. We look at them with a telescope …… from a safe distance. Different matter is the inspiration that comes from the Street. Generally speaking, people utilize inventive spirit in order to make a statement about their personality and characters. Clothing creates an interesting way of showing up publicly and is quite different from person to person. The beauty of being humans is that we can really add a twist on every expression of self. It is the Circus of the Human Condition. Therefore a good show to go see.
DT: How many pairs of denim do YOU own?
Levi’s M&C: Enough – it runs the gamut from vintage collector pieces to the one pair that I wear almost everyday and get mended every time I go to San Francisco’s Levi’s® Tailor Shop.
DT: Favourite celeb wearing your brand?
Levi’s M&C: In our own world we are all celebrities. With and without clothes on!
You can visit their website to see more styles from the Made & Crafted Collection.
Tags: american rag, Barneys New York, Fred Segal, fred segal santa monica, Levi Strauss, Levi's, levi's made and crafted, levi's xx, lncc, Made in USA, Maurizio Donadi, Mr Porter, Net-A-Porter, net-a-porter.com, skinny jean, vintage denim