The Levi’s® Pride Collection has always kept visibility for LGBTQIA+ people at the heart of its purpose since it launched in 2014. This year is no different, with the newest collection centering on advocacy as the struggle for rights and protections for LGBTQIA+ people continue in the U.S. and beyond. Inspired by the activism of early gay rights movement posters and memorabilia, this year’s Pride collection pays tribute to the past while encouraging tomorrow’s LGBTQIA+ community to courageously speak up for themselves and what they believe. The collection is gender-free, celebrating fluidity and the freedom to wear anything, and it features embedded messages of “love” and “open to all” throughout.
To get a deeper understanding of the design, we caught up with Juan Valdez, part of the lead design team of this year’s Pride collection.
What was important to you in designing this year’s collection?
We wanted to evolve our Pride collection to stand apart from others and to be more than just rainbows. We were very intentional in thinking about how to design a collection with a story underpinned that was relevant to the community. Storytelling was a big part of it. We challenged ourselves to look at the past while looking at the LGBTQIA+ community of today and embrace how today’s youth are freer than we ever were. The collection celebrates Gen Z’s progression to be more free and fluid.
What’s new in the collection and why?
One of the big things that is new is a 501® long bottom. We’ve always done a 501® short because of the weather this time of year, but we thought let’s challenge that thinking. We’ve never put the Pride tab on a Levi’s® 501®, which has been such a loved style of the community. Given it’s an iconic garment and Pride is an iconic movement with an iconic community, we thought, let’s do it.
We also introduced a skirt, a waist cincher and crop tops for the first time. Instead of just thinking gender neutral, we thought gender-free — anybody who wants to wear a skirt can wear a skirt. So for our ad campaign we photographed men wearing the skirt and women wearing the skirt to encourage this freedom of fluidity and styling.
What role does color play in the collection?
In early brainstorms with the design team, we were drawn to watercolors and different surface textures. Watercolors resonated because they blend beautifully and are such a fluid color medium. That informed the direction and meaning behind the watercolor hues of the collection. Another thing that came up was pearl being the birthstone for the month of June, and we really liked the idea of something beautiful, delicate and fragile for finishing touches in the collection. Pearl became one of the key hardware accents in the collection.
In expressing the rainbow, we wanted to continue to incorporate it, but in a different way. So a lot of the graphics like on the denim pieces aren’t a super vibrant rainbow. It’s more like a vintage rainbow and a more inclusive progressive rainbow flag.
What inspired you as you created the collection?
The starting point was talking about gay rights protests of the past with the activism of today. This really connected to our idea about the courage of today’s fluid youth and how watercolors blur lines and blend together. The collection developed to represent connecting the past, present and future of activism.
An example of this is the Trucker jacket. On the back is the graphic slogan “let us love,” which is a powerful, bold statement, and the artwork ties back to the posters from the ’70s. It encapsulates the energy of that time, but for today.
How did you approach design from a global perspective?
Globally, we wanted the collection to be open and not specific to a group. We wanted the collection to be focused on love because that’s universal. We wanted the collection to be approached as open to everybody, no matter where they are in the world. An example is one of the T-shirts that’s really beautiful because it features a global timeline of milestones for the LGBTQIA+ community.
In support of the collection, Levi’s® is making an annual $100,000 donation to OutRightAction International, a global organization working to advance human rights for LGBTQIA+ people all over the world.