Levi Strauss & Co. was founded during the 1850s California Gold Rush, when Bavarian-born Levi Strauss arrived in San Francisco. His first customers spanned the American West, eventually reaching across the Pacific to Honolulu, Hawaii. By the early 20th century, Levi’s® customers hailed from other side of the Atlantic, with retail customers in London purchasing our fine American dry goods.
Now, more than 100 years since those first Levi’s® London ties were created, we’ve opened a satellite Archives adjoining our new store in historic Soho to preserve our heritage and highlight our history across the pond.
Introducing the Levi’s® Archives London
The Levi’s® Archives London is the first satellite Archives outside of San Francisco. Our headquarters Archives — established more than 30 years ago in 1989 — is a treasure trove of artifacts, vintage Levi’s® garments, advertisements, catalogs and invoices that date back to the 1850s. Like the guests at the San Francisco Archives, employees and visitors invited to the London Archives will get an up-close look at some original Levi’s® garments, including our copper riveted denim overalls, the Levi’s 501®, the world’s first blue jeans.
“The Levi’s® London Archives gets me excited,” said the Archives’ manager Phil Brown. “It’s an opportunity to interact with true vintage pieces and showcase our incredible history to staff and fans alike.”
London’s core collection of jeans date from the 1930s on and have local connections. A mid-1970s 505®, for example, was owned by the manager of a London dump yard. It is heavily patched and repaired on the front leg. Another pair was owned by a woman who worked in a clothing shop near Carnaby Street; she couldn’t find Levi’s® that fit her in the U.K., so she customized a vintage 501® into a bootcut flared jean and took in the waist. There is also a 1984 501® on display, which was worn by the member of a punk band from London’s Southend. “We go heavy on the 70s and 80s as we link into the London punk and music scenes that were prominent in London,” explained Phil, who tracked down the jeans.
Along with seeing these unusual pieces, visitors will have a chance to learn the Levi’s® stories that are unique to London, like the story of the Levi’s® featured on the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers (1971) album and the story of the Levi Strauss jacket owned by Albert Einstein, which was purchased at a Christie’s Auction in London.
Taking our Archives global is an exciting opportunity to connect with new audiences internationally. The Levi’s® Archives London demonstrates LS&Co.’s authenticity and longtime history abroad with timeless garments with local appeal that were worn decades ago — and are the inspiration for styles still worn by Levi’s® fans around the world today.