Levi’s® and Mercado Global: Timeless Style Woven Together

Levi Strauss & Co.
February 13, 2019

The Levi’s® brand is known around the globe for its timeless style – having invented blue jeans more than 145 years ago in San Francisco.

Mayan women in the Guatemalan Highlands are known the world over for stunningly colorful and intricate textiles and for their master weaving skills that have been practiced for more than 2,000 years.

Thanks to a special partnership, these two traditions have come together. The Levi’s® brand and Mercado Global – an accessory brand and nonprofit that empowers rural Latin American women to become entrepreneurs – have collaborated on a spring bag and tote collection, available now on and in select retail locations.

The bags and totes are made using traditional weaving methods and generations-old techniques. The bold construction, colors and patterns of each accessory are unique and represent its culture of origin. Additionally, Mercado Global’s unique handwoven fabric will also be available in all U.S. Tailor Shops for consumers to use in customizing their jeans and trucker jackets.

While the spring collection is new, the partnership between the Levi’s® brand and Mercado Global began more than 10 years ago. The brand was Mercado Global’s first major retail partner, and now the organization’s products are sold through many western brands.  But the partnership extends well beyond the business relationship.  The Levi Strauss Foundation has supported Mercado Global since the organization’s early days and over the years has invested over $1.2 million.

“As one of our first retail clients and one of our earliest philanthropic partners, Levi’s and the Levi Strauss Foundation have been true strategic partners in building Mercado Global and our model for mainstreaming artisan sourcing in the fashion industry,” Mercado Global founder and Executive Director, Ruth DeGolia, said of the relationship. “At every phase of our growth the Levi’s family has partnered with us to help us expand and improve our impact.

“Whenever Levi’s employee visits one of our partner communities in Guatemalan, they are literally greeted with applause. The income Levi’s orders provide our partner artisans and the grant support from the Levi Strauss Foundation are transformational for their children and families,” Ruth added. “At the same time, it brings tremendous pride to our partner artisans to create products for such an internationally renowned retailer.”

The impact of support from partners like Levi’s® and the Levi Strauss Foundation is making a real difference. Across the board, Mercado Global partner artisans are thriving in comparison to the national average in Guatemala:

  • 99 percent of its artisans’ children are enrolled in school (national average 35 percent)
  • 64 percent of its artisans have bank accounts (national average is 27 percent)
  • 73 percent of its artisans have access to the food and nutrition they need (national average 45 percent)
  • 84 percent of its artisans are in a leadership position (despite the inequality faced in Guatemala’s male-dominated society)

Not content with these impressive results, Mercado Global is launching a scaling campaign that will reach 800 women artisans by 2020. Along with this, the organization plans to triple the income provided to both current and new artisans through product sales growth.