With the growing concern of the environmental crisis, Levi’s® Vintage Clothing decided to take inspiration from the activists at its forefront. Looking back to the ‘60s, the first time environmental concerns started taking center stage, Paul O’Neill, Levi’s® Vintage Clothing Design Director, took influence from the fashion at the time, including heading to the brand’s own archive to re-launch pieces from the focal decade.
The new collection, Project Survival, was developed as a tribute to the student activists that ignited a revolution that originated the first Earth Day in 1970.
Having focused on the student environmental movement at Northwestern University during the ‘60s, you can note this inspiration present throughout the clothing in collegiate references and in the nods to the Levi’s archive from this period. This mix gives us a relaxed and laid-back collection, shaped by the eco-conscious groups of the era, with a tinge of collegiate uniform, revealing a range of pants, in twill and denim, and tops, jackets, sweaters and more.
“We wanted to celebrate one of the early movements for environmental justice. All over university campuses during the ’60s, groups were popping up to promote healthy environmental practices. We were really inspired by these young students who cared so much and strove to make a change,” said Paul O’Neill. “Here we are 50 years later, still fighting for the planet and still trying to get people to listen. The first thing we did, after studying photographs of what these kids were wearing, was to go into the Levi’s® Archives, where we have thousands of original garments. We scoured through the right periods and pulled out the pieces that would help us tell this story.”
For this collection the brand tapped into a muted color palette, featuring forest green, washed denim blue, pale tan, sage, sky blue and sunset orange. These were used on classic ‘60s and ‘70’s silhouettes. For example, key pieces include the 1966 501 jeans that have been altered into boot cut flares with the use of fabric inserts at the seams, and an authentic Sta-Prest that is being launched for the first time in many years.
You can also find a 1960s 14-wale cord jacket with snaps, Western packets, and no waistband as part of the collection’, this piece enters the collection as a reproduction of the old Levi’s Slim Fits label from the 1960s. Other finds include stitch-for-stitch archival reproductions of the Orange Tab hooded denim jacket originally from the ‘70s.
“The late 1960s, to me, feels like the first time people start to dress like how everybody dresses now. People were starting to get away from dressing like their parents. You see the college kids, and it became a much more dressed-down look with T-shirts and worn-in jeans and sportswear. A kind of effortless look that just naturally evolved,” said Paul O’Neill. “It was the first time that Levi’s® started to focus more on youth. White Tab™ was about collegiate style — a sort of Ivy League look with slim, straight silhouettes. In the mid-’60s, we began to see the first skinny jeans, which we reproduced for this collection. In 1969, Levi’s® started Orange Tab™, a denim collection with a fashion focus and a California hippie kind of cool, where we see things like bell-bottoms. This collection embodies both.”
Shot in a documentary-style photography, the collection’s campaign aims to give off that “fly on the wall” feel to the photos. Intentionally having the models avoid eye contact with the camera to achieve this natural documental feel.