Levi’s® Wellthread® — A Laboratory for Progress

Danielle Samaniego, Unzipped Editor
Levi Strauss & Co.
March 17, 2021

When the Levi’s® brand first introduced its Wellthread collection back in 2015, it was a way to push the sustainable boundaries of how we make our clothes.

Today, Levi’s® Wellthread® is a vehicle for progress, a living R&D lab through which we work through design and manufacturing challenges in order to create a more sustainable future through innovative product. And for Spring/Summer 2021, that progress comes in the form of exciting innovations and styles, including the introduction of 55% hemp-blended fabrics, new natural-dye techniques, the expanded use of organically grown cotton and the recyclability of every Wellthread® garment.

“Our Wellthread design methodology prioritizes environmental sustainability in the materials we use,” said Una Murphy, senior innovation designer with Levi’s®. “This spring we continue to refine and develop hemp, seeking ways to optimize it for our collections. Our hemp denim products not only meet our customers’ expectations of authenticity and comfort but also reduce our garments’ water footprint.”

This season, Levi’s® Wellthread® embraces looser silhouettes for men’s, adding a new fit: the 551TM Z, an authentic straight fit updated with a zip fly. The brand will also continue to offer its most sustainable jean ever, made with organic cotton and Circulose®, a breakthrough material made from worn-out jeans. Available as part of the Levi’s® Wellthread® line in the 502™  Taper for men, the jean represents more than five years of research in circular denim design.

All Levi’s® Wellthread® garments are designed with a future state of circularity in mind, using all-natural fibers — including the back patch, Red Tab, thread and pocketing — to ensure that they’ll be easier to recycle where the necessary programs and technology exist.

Paul Dillinger, vice president of global product innovation at LS&Co., has played a major role in bringing Wellthread® to life. As he sees it, a collection like this speaks to our broader approach to conscious consumption.

Evolving cottonized hemp

This season, the brand continues to infuse cottonized hemp across the Wellthread® line while also introducing new cotton and hemp blended fabrics that bumps the percentage of hemp up to 55%.

Hemp generally requires less water and fewer pesticides in cultivation than conventionally grown cotton, resulting in cleaner, healthier soils. The hemp blended into these garments comes from rain-fed hemp crops, which reduces water usage even further. By using more hemp, we save more resources and create even more sustainable garments that still have the same look as traditional Levi’s® denim and our non-denim is soft, comfortable and refined. Majority-hemp garments also trigger lower import duties than do majority-cotton garments, another indication of the business benefits of more sustainable product.

Natural dyes

Traditionally, plant-based dyes can require the use of toxic chemicals to make the dye penetrate the yarn. But Levi’s® Wellthread® uses a technique involving ultrasonic waves that are used to apply the dye to the fiber, reducing the need for harsh chemicals and reducing the garment’s overall environmental footprint. Every T-shirt in the Levi’s® Wellthread® collection this season features this innovative, water saving plant-based dye technique.

In the men’s 551™Z  Authentic Straight in Botanic Blue, a unique plant-based indigo denim is used, which was grown in the U.S. as a replacement crop for tobacco farmers. The denim is made from 100% organic cotton from India and is dyed using water-saving dye techniques.

All tees and denim are also made from organic cotton, grown without synthetic chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers. Organic cotton helps keep the water, soil and surrounding environment clean and healthy as well as supporting healthier farming communities. Additionally, all Levi’s® Wellthread® washes are finished using our Water<Less® techniques, and the Screened Chemistry program that we developed is applied in all designs in the collection. 

Right by the planet and our workers

The entire collection was manufactured in facilities that have implemented LS&Co.’s Worker Well-being initiative, which aims to improve the lives of the women and men who make our products around the world with factory-based programs that address issues related to health, financial security and gender equality. The initiative operates on the premise that when workers are healthy, satisfied and engaged at work, factory productivity will increase.

“We’re proud to bring forward this latest Wellthread® collection,” Paul said. “It builds on all the work we’ve done in the past and continues to expand the future possibilities of design that makes sustainability the top priority at every step of the process, while still delivering product that consumers will love.”

Check out the new collection, available now on levi.com.