LS&Co. Gears Up for Pride: Q&A With Grant Barth On Levi’s® and SF Pride Parade

Levi Strauss & Co.
June 23, 2014

This weekend the Pride Parade is hitting San Francisco streets, and to say we’re excited is an understatement. Here at LS&Co., we love rallying to celebrate equality, LGBT rights and community.

And we’re especially thrilled about Levi’s® involvement in this year’s Pride Parade. In addition to creating Pride-themed T-shirts and merchandise, Levi’s® has put together a float. Mining our archive, the creative team went back to the 1970s to celebrate some of the typography and bold colors of the era. The result? A symbolic salute to the LGBT community, San Francisco and Levi’s® fans.

Of course, this year isn’t the first time LS&Co. has championed the gay rights movement. LS&Co. was one of the first companies to grant domestic health benefits to employees, and we’ve fought for public policy and community support because it’s a cause that matters to us.

In 2007, LS&Co. filed an amicus curiae brief with the California Supreme Court in support of marriage equality — the first and only California business to do so. And last year, we joined a coalition of marriage equality supporters to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize the right of all American citizens to marry whomever they wish to. (We couldn’t be more pleased about how that turned out!)

Suffice it to say, this upcoming Sunday is a special day for us, and we can’t wait to celebrate. In anticipation of the event, Unzipped spoke with Chief Merchandising Officer Grant Barth, who is part of the team leading Levi’s® efforts at this year’s S.F. Pride Parade:

UNZIPPED: Tell us a little bit about your role at LS&Co.

GRANT BARTH: My role is to lead the Merchandising Team for Levi’s®. Our team spans the entire globe from San Francisco to London, from Brazil to Bangalore, from Tokyo to Moscow and all markets in between. We are one truly global team that is setting and delivering the product strategy for the Levi’s® brand from concept to consumer. I work most closely with Jen Sey and Karyn Hillman, who lead marketing and product design, to bring all the great work to life for our Levi’s® fans.

How have you been involved in the Pride project?

In January, I met with Lance Relicke, who’s in charge of Levi’s® Global Brand Environment, to sketch out what we would do to bring a sense of Pride back to the Levi’s® brand. We had many ideas and wanted to keep it focused on a few events that aligned with our core Levi’s® values. It’s so encouraging to see how many employees and community partners have jumped on board. Our hope is to continue to build a voice for the brand in local communities across the globe. This year is only the beginning!

Why is involvement in Pride important for Levi’s®?

Levi’s® has a long history with the LGBT community — we were the first to offer benefits to LGBT employees; Levi’s® has always stood for equality for all employees and their families. We wanted to bring the spirit of our long history of community and employee involvement back to Levi’s® and start a conversation with our fans for the future. It’s not just about the LGBT community; we wanted to start encouraging all employees to bring their personal causes to life across the company. 

What are you most excited about regarding Levi’s® involvement in Pride?

I had the opportunity to work on the BeTrue initiative for Nike. That work also started with a small, passionate team whose goal is to end bullying and homophobia in sport. This has grown into an amazing global initiative that has delivered more than $1 million to grassroots organizations in the U.S.

At Levi’s®, we have an even bigger opportunity to connect more deeply with communities. Proceeds from the sale of this year’s Pride apparel will be delivered back to the community organizations in major cities.

Levi’s® is all about an individual’s authentic self-expression, and our involvement with Pride celebrates this core value. It’s exciting to see Levi’s® fans respond with so much enthusiasm. How we move the message forward is now up to all of us.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Pride float design? Was there a certain theme you had in mind?

Lance and his team were the drivers behind the Pride float design, and they always do amazing creative work. We wanted to ensure that the design celebrated a very simple message: Our employees are Levi’s®. We are San Francisco. We celebrate diversity and authentic self-expression. We are an apparel company first and foremost — and Levi’s® is a part of the fabric and history of this amazing city.

Can you tell us more about the Pride-themed T-shirts, tanks and baseball caps that have been especially designed for Levi’s®?

The product design came directly from our Levi’s® Vault. The team took inspiration from the archival designs from the 70’s. We wanted to keep a simple formula — make it authentically Levi’s® and celebrate the colors of Pride. Much effort was given to the details — down to the pride colors and the rainbow fill of the Levi’s® Brand Logo. We wanted the collection to be effortless and fun.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

It’s great to see how a small idea that mixes passion from the team with a real connection to community can spark a terrific initiative. Levi’s® is the original startup, and it’s this spirit that always brings out our best results.