Levi’s 501 jeans are so iconic they have their own aptly named Levi’s 501 Day, which falls on May 20. To commemorate the pseudo holiday, the brand collaborated with stylist to the stars Karla Welch on a nine-piece line that hit stores Sunday. (Welch launched her own brand, xkarla, a collaboration with Hanes, two years ago.)
The new fashion line’s dramatic ad campaign stars Welch’s own clients and other women she admires like SZA and Yara Shahidi. It also features the song “Yang Yang,” donated by Yoko Ono in support of Everytown for Gun Safety, the charity to which Levi’s made a donation at Welch’s behest.
“Levi Strauss & Co. has a long history of taking bold, values-driven positions on the important issues of the day—and doing so long before it’s popular,” said Levi Strauss & Co. CMO Jennifer Sey.
Welch’s goal with the line was not only to reinvent vintage, but also imagine what it could mean in the future. The designer drew inspiration for the collection from her own childhood, from pants reminiscent of those she grew up wearing in British Columbia to fringe inspired by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, of whom she’s been a longtime fan. Some of her designs also give a nod to old Levi’s styles she found perusing the company’s sizable vintage archive.
“Before customizing was a trend, people were customizing their 501s and using them as their canvas for personal expression,” Sey explained. “There is no one right way to wear the 501. You can wear it beaten up, clean and rigid, patched and repaired, sized up or down or just right. Because Karla instinctively draws out her clients unique personalities and their individual sense of style, we knew she was a great fit for us.”
Sey previously told Vogue that after years of hesitation around this sort of partnership, the company decided reinvention, like this collaboration with Welch, will be an important part of the brand’s future.
“We’re just very careful about preserving the integrity of the Original 501,” Sey said. “The 501 is an iconic product with 145 years of history so we always want to make sure we protect the original DNA of the product while keeping it fresh and timeless. It’s a balance of respecting the history while infusing newness for the future.”