The key to Levi Strauss & Co.’s success is both authenticity and unpredictability, says Seth Ellison, LS&Co. executive vice president and president of Europe.
Following the release of the 2017 financial results for the company – which showed its strongest growth in more than a decade, with net revenues up by 13 percent in the U.S. and 20 percent in Europe – Seth sat down with Sportswear International to talk about what we’ve been doing right, and where we want to go in 2018.
“If you don’t continue to excite the customer you will lose them,” he said. “So we keep our foot on the gas. We will not be slowing down.”
Highlights from the Q&A session include:
Q: Seth, 2017 has been a successful year for Levi’s®. Why is that so?
Seth Ellison: The last few years Levi’s has been a sleeping giant and now we have joined our forces to accelerate our approach, getting the right team together and getting the business to move again … In short: we fought at all fronts. It was an interesting journey and we had great fun.
Q: Your traditional batwing logo shirt is ubiquitous. Why?
SE: Our aim was to create a stronger connection to the consumer. So we had to approach all three, those fans that are still with the brand, those who had been but left and those who never discovered Levi’s … So we went down to the bottom line and stuck to the relevant products, the jeans and the T-shirt … The batwing shirt shows both that we are proud of being a large brand but also that we are authentic and interesting.
Q: What iconic item comes next?
SE: At this moment the Olympics logo takes up space. But also our new print bar brings up new emblems as well as customized batwings. Our fans will create their own iconic motifs.
Q: How does a brand like Levi’s® keep up with the market changes without losing its heritage?
SE: It is all about playing big as a leader but playing small as an authentic brand. It is a good mixture of honesty and being unpredictable. And we truly believe that our consumers are smart. So they have an appreciation for community and responsibility. We organized around 20 music festivals last year but also several events to help refugees at many places. We did numerous collaborations, such as with Justin Timberlake and Jordan by Nike which was sold out within a few hours.
Q: So what is going to happen in 2018?
SE: Already now the momentum has continued. I can see the potential to increase categories like women’s. And also our geographic expansion will go on. We will develop divisions as for instance footwear and accessories. If you don’t continue to excite the customer you will lose them. So we keep our foot on the gas. We will not be slowing down.
Read the full interview here.