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Denim October, 25 2012

A Conversation with John Colonna – Levi’s XX Senior Director of Merchandising and Design

At the global unveiling of all the Levi’s Spring/Summer 2013 collections in London last week, we had a preview to their more creatively elevated labels both under the Levi’s XX division, Levi’s Made & Crafted and Levi’s Vintage Clothing. From them, strong product was wonderfully displayed such as the revered 501 through the ages. Various outfits were modelled with print pattern shirts giving a nod to the brand’s heritage particularly caught our eye. There we also we had the chance to have a good chat with John Colonna, Levi’s XX Senior Director of Merchandising and Design, who’s previously worked for the likes of Burton Snowboards and Nike Sportswear, giving us sound insight on matters regarding the brands’ identity, innovation and his favourite 501s.

Read our full interview here below.

What exactly is Levi’s Made & Crafted’s role in the Levi’s family? How does it differ from Levi’s Vintage Clothing?

Made & Crafted was basically set up as a premium collection, both men’s and women’s for the brand. It’s role is to look for inspiration from historical reference, our archives and our heritage, and collide them with new current things going on in the market place to get more modern expressions. So it’s a collection based on premium materials, details, and construction with the essence of craft at its core. Its role in Levi’s is to bring that new modern interpretation into the brand – a collision of the old and the new and bring it into a current place.

Who brought Maurizio Donadi (from RRL) into the fold? He’s able to work pretty well in both of the Levi’s XX directions i.e. vintage and modern…

I’m not sure if you guys are aware, but he’s not currently with the brand anymore. He was brought in to ignite and start both of those brands, and to give the brands a really strong premium position, and he has recently moved onto other things. But right now, we are managing from a different perspective – a few different leaders are involved, still supportive of a premium perspective and still balancing the heritage part and obviously the modernity of Made & Crafted.

Having worked for sports brands prior to Levi’s, and as Made & Crafted applies a forward approach, do you ever consider to incorporate sportswear innovation to the brand?

That’s a good question. Maybe not sportswear innovation, but innovation, yes. I think with the brand you may experience in both Levi’s Red Tab and within LVC (Levi’s Vintage Clothing), most importantly Made & Crafted, is innovation for us really comes down to fabric, fit, function and finish. When we say we’re obsessed on details, we’re also obsessed with the normal or the foundation processes to produce product. That’s how I would sum it up as that.

Sustainability is an important issue with brands nowadays, how does the Levi’s XX division plan to carry that out?

It’s absolutely an important issue. We don’t communicate it as broadly to our consumer base at that pinnacle level as Red Tab, but we are partnered on the same mission – it’s the same brand mission for sustainability. So we implement or incorporate as much into the construction into our materials, our product and our sourcing as we possibly can.

How does a product become a Levi’s Made & Crafted product?

We have a different product team. We have some of the most imaginative and creative designers working on Made & Crafted. They’re also working on the heritage aspect of the line. Their fundamental mindset or foundation to where they get their insight is really rooted in the brand. So as they begin to develop and come up with concepts into the future, it’s basically developed by understanding where the brand wants to go and making sure we’re current in the marketplace as far as trend goes for both men and women.

It’s said that Levi’s XX is about customers finding about the brand and not the other way around. Can you explain this a little bit more?

I think the original intent of both LVC and Made & Crafted was to sort position and to build some awareness through the really focused consumer target and really strong distribution strategy. As move forward, you’ll probably get more communication from each one of the brands, so we really, really targeted a focussed consumer base and from that we keep the conversation with them authentic and sincere, and also just broadening our exposure of both of the brands in the future.

The 501 is the prize piece for Levi’s Vintage, evolving from its inception through World War II until the 1970′s. Which is your favourite variation and why?

That’s a good question again. I’m torn between two right now; the ’54 and the ’44. I have to say the 501 1954 is my favourite because it’s got a nice tapered fit; it’s the only time the 501 came with a zipper and it was a really interesting time – if you look at culture it was a really interesting moment, so it had a lot of affect on styling and stuff like that, it has an interesting story behind it.

Is Levi’s Made & Crafted a testing ground of sorts that could trickle down in-line?

It’s not its intent. I think what we have Made & Crafted positioned as is a modern premium expression of Levi’s. It allows our Levi’s consumer that has become more sophisticated in their interests in product or insights around them to grow with the brand. And most importantly it brings in new consumers to experience the brand. It allows people who haven’t experienced Levi’s in a long time to experience a fresh modern perspective of it and just kind of reenergises the whole brand of Levi’s.

Credits:

Interview: Denis Yong

Photography: Magdi Fernandes

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