“The company is starting with a commitment of $3 million to assist at-risk communities during the time of crisis with a focus on our existing community partners and supply chain workers,” said Jennifer Sey, chief marketing officer of Levi Strauss & Co., in a phone interview. “There’s been a real rush for emergency support on the front end of this. We want to make sure we’re addressing some of the midterm and long-term impacts that could go unaddressed by supporting our existing community partners.”
The San Francisco-based company via the Levi Strauss Foundation is supporting its own employees and communities around the globe during the coronavirus pandemic by donating to a variety of organizations. These include Chinese for Affirmative Action, which protects immigrant rights, and fights racial and social injustice; Tipping Point, which works to end poverty in the Bay Area, and Swasti in India, a nonprofit that aims to help the poor and marginalized. Levi Strauss & Co. will also be donating to Doctors Without Borders, first responders to emergencies, and Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights, women and transgender human rights defenders.
“We’re in it, so we’re sort of learning in real time,” Sey said when asked how the brand is affected by the pandemic. “I think it’s impossible to say at this point what the impact is in the immediate term or long term.…In terms of how our business is affected, it’s like everyone else’s. Our stores are all closed, and our retail partners are all closed, so obviously that has a dramatic impact on the business. What we are trying to do is keep people engaged and connected. We don’t want to sell people too hard. We know they have a lot of other things on their minds. Whatever we can do to ease the burden either through entertainment or through committing funds to help affected communities.”
At 5:01 p.m. PST on weekdays, as an ode to their 501 jeans, Levi’s has been hosting concerts on Instagram Live with a range of artists, from Questlove to Alec Benjamin, while committing $10,000 per performance to the charity of the artist’s choice.
“We do suggest charities that are funding the creative community,” said Sey. “We’ve dedicated half-a-million dollars to it.…We’re going to keep lining up artists.”
During this time of year, Levi’s would be preparing for its return to Coachella, where the brand has had a longtime presence during the festival and at Neon Carnival.
“It’s a real loss to people to not have that chance to come together and attend festivals and enjoy music together,” she continued. Coachella has been postponed until October. “This [the Instagram concerts] is a mini opportunity for people to feel that connection.”
It’s too early to tell, she said of returning to the festival in the fall: “It’s hard to know whether that’ll actually happen. It’s hard to know whether people will even be comfortable coming together in that way. We are monitoring and playing it a little bit by ear.”
Artists, from Elvis to Kurt Cobain, have been “wearing and performing in Levi’s since forever,” she said of the brand’s connection to the music industry. “The way I always put it is we didn’t choose music, it chose us.”
Other initiatives from the company include Levi’s Music Project, which works to bring back music education to schools and centers worldwide. “Again, it’s about giving back to that community,” shared Sey. “Music is a vital part of education.”
When it comes to fashion, “when people return to buying apparel, they may turn to essential items, but it’s also possible that they want that fun that they get from fashion back in their lives after being sheltered.…The other interesting possibility — we’ve all been reading about the pollution clearing, so when we really try, we can make a huge difference in terms of the health of our environment. Sustainability in itself could be more important when we come out of this, potentially, but I don’t think we know yet.
“And it will depend on what your brand is all about,” she continued. “How hard the market is hit by the virus.”