Apr 16, 2023
by Karl Smith
Levi’s and Slam Jam Give New Life to Old 501® Jeans With Japan-Made Deadstock
by Karl Smith
Apr 16, 2023

In a sense, Levi’s has always been committed to sustainability and circularity as a part of its business model. The brand is best known for hard-wearing, long-lasting denim – clothing design to be worn and worn again. A cursory glance at the rails of any thrift or vintage store – or, where rarer pieces are concerned, resale sites like Grailed – will tell you that Levi’s jeans and denim jackets often outlast their owners.

More recently the brand has operated its own take-back programs and even worked with Renewcell to push that cycle more overtly, collaborating on the Circular 501® – jeans made from liquified jeans using the Swedish company’s technology. According to Levi’s, its Water<Less® program has saved 3,000,000,000 liters of water since 2011 and recycled a further 5,000,000,000.

Not to mention those liters undoubtedly saved by telling consumers that they don’t need to wash their jeans.

All of this is to say that, in a lot of ways, Levi’s has been setting the standard for a while now. And this latest collaboration – with the Italian cult streetwear store turned cult streetwear label Slam Jam, released to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 501® – is a continuation of that ethos.

A two-piece drop comprising high-quality 1955 501® jeans made in Japan and tank tops from 1950 Sportswear Tees, the mini-capsule is made from existing materials only. There’s nothing new here but the design interpretations offered by Slam Jam. In terms of the denim, that manifests in the not-exactly-subtle inclusion of a screen-printed silver silk pattern to the outside leg. The tank top features dual branding to the chest and a toned-down version of the same silver print.

Of course, nothing is perfect. There’s the fact that the 501® denim in question was fabricated in Japan and then flown to Italy for the Slam Jam rework and distributed internationally – which is an awful lot of air miles for a deadstock product. Then there are the more general issues: Levi’s refusal to sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry is a huge red flag for the red tab brand. Questions about the impact of its dying processes, too, still remain somewhat open-ended.

Nonetheless, if you’re going to launch an occasion-oriented product then this is more-or-less the best way to do it: using the resources you already have to give a new lease of life to old stock. And, as we head toward Earth Day and toward piles of new product created to “celebrate the planet,” it’s an example that a lot of brands would do well to follow.

The Levi’s® by SLAM JAM 501® anniversary collection is out now, priced at £260 GBP for the jeans and £85 for the tank top, available directly from Levi’s in the UK and Europe. If you’re interested in hearing more about sustainable, circular and otherwise planet-friendlier releases, subscribe to the FUTUREVVORLD mailing list and get the news direct to your inbox.