The 501® Jean and the Magnificent Seven

Levi Strauss & Co.
March 21, 2023

Earlier this year, the Levi’s® brand introduced Greatest Story Ever Worn, our global campaign celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 501® jean as an ever-expanding story, written and rewritten by everyone who wears them. 

As the excitement around the anniversary ramps up, Europe has taken the celebration to another level, partnering with famous denim artist Ian Berry on a three-day art installation in the heart of Paris. 

Made up of hundreds of recycled jeans, the impressive fresco — sized at 4 by 10 meters, or roughly 13 by 33 feet — pays tribute to the various communities and movements whose cultural and social influences throughout history have contributed to making the 501® jean the global fashion icon it is today. 

Through Ian’s unique techniques of assembling multiple shades of denim, seven characters appear to the eye in a striking composition. These seven figures represent archetypes of people — such as hippies, punks, bikers and cowboys — who adopted the 501® jean as part of their distinctive attire. 

Ian’s sensitivity and artistic vision reinforced the strong symbolism of the fresco. The way the characters are depicted in movement (heading in the same direction and resolutely looking forward), is an ode to freedom and to the power of diversity to drive change — values the Levi’s® brand has long supported. 

For the artist whose signature medium is recycled denim, this project holds a very particular significance. “There is no history of blue jeans without Levi Strauss, and the 501® is the pinnacle of jeans, so this 150th anniversary definitely feels like a big thing to me,” Ian said. “The history is so rich, it was pretty easy to draw inspiration from all the people who did great things in their denim. The result is the largest piece that I have ever attempted. Countless hours went into this work, but I’m immensely proud of this contribution.” 

Ian’s name wasn’t new to LS&Co. In fact, LS&Co. historian Tracey Panek is a long-time admirer. “I am a fan of Ian’s work and craftsmanship,” she said. “He’s such a talented artist with a gift for using denim. I keep one of his books in my home!”  

Recalling her exchanges with the artist around denim legends, Tracey commented, “This project looks amazing. Ian’s interpretation of the 501® jean’s recurring presence in counterculture and progressive movements is on point. I’m excited to see it myself.”  

The exhibition, which was live for three days on the iconic Place de la République in Paris, included a complete takeover of a local café with a display of different models of 501® jeans, including the Circular 501® and our most recent launches, the 501® 54’ and 501® 81’. 

Commenting on the local activation, Mathilde Vaucheret, brand marketing director, South Europe, said, “I’m proud that our Levi’s brand could associate its name with this great artist on such a milestone year and that we could share his stunning work of art on this busy and diverse square at the heart of Paris. This year’s Greatest Story Ever Worn campaign is all about celebrating the 501® jean with our fans and thanking them for being a part of this inspiring story.” 

You can catch the fresco at its next stop in Milan for Design Week from April 17 to 25, and in Madrid from May 4 to 7.