Bringing Innovation to an Icon

Levi Strauss & Co.
December 13, 2021

We are putting an innovative and sustainable spin on one of our most iconic products.

In early 2022, the Levi’s® brand is launching a new version of the 501® Original jean, made with organic cotton, post-consumer recycled denim and designed to be recyclable. It builds on last year’s collaboration between Swedish company Renewcell and our Wellthread™ line on the 502™ for men and High Loose for women using the same materials, which was named a “World Changing Idea” by Fast Company.

We are once again using a mix of Renewcell’s pioneering Circulose® fiber, a sustainably sourced viscose made in part from recycled denim, and organic cotton, which allows us to use far fewer natural resources and fewer chemicals to produce. The result is a new jean made from old jeans that’s designed with the potential to be re-made into new jeans – again and again.

“We’re taking the innovation from last year’s Wellthread™ collaboration with Renewcell and applying it to what could rightly be called the most iconic garment in all of apparel, the 501®,” said Paul Dillinger, vice president of Design Innovation. “It shows how serious we are about moving in the direction of circularity. Not only will our circular 501® jeans be designed to stand the test of time, just as they always have been, but they’ll also be able to find a second, third or fourth life as new garments.”

Investing in a more circular fashion model

The latest product launch speaks to our commitment to moving toward more circular products and practices. Reducing the environmental impacts of our materials is part of our broader strategy for resource conservation across the life cycles of our products and is an important part of our Buy Better, Wear Longer message and campaign.

In July 2021, we joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign Project with a commitment to grow our circular product portfolio. There was a natural alignment with the work that was already happening in our Wellthread line, as exemplified by last year’s collaboration with Renewcell, and the circularity standards that EMF is trying to integrate across the industry. The circular 501®, which comports with EMF’s Jeans Redesign Guidelines, is further evidence of that.

“In our ongoing research and development, we strive to improve our design practices and conserve environmental resources every way we can,” says Una Murphy, Levi’s® director of Design Innovation. “By incorporating sustainable innovation, we learn what’s possible and work towards solving some of our biggest challenges.”

Each and every material component going into our circular 501® jeans was developed and selected to align with a strict single-fiber strategy that enables efficient recycling at the end of the jean’s useful life.  By replacing parts of the garment that would normally be made from synthetic fibers – like polyester pocketing, threads, labels, and interfacing – with 100% cotton alternatives, we’ve removed pollutive elements that would otherwise disrupt the cotton recovery process.

“By producing our signature jean, the 501®, with recycled content and in a way that makes them recyclable, we’re hoping to show ourselves and the industry that it really can be done and that we can deliver more sustainable product that saves resources, still looks great, and meets the highest quality standards,” Paul said.