By  on June 18, 2009

PARIS — In a bid to underscore its authenticity in denim, Levi Strauss & Co. has created Levi’s XX, a global division that will develop premium denim collections as well as vintage reeditions.

The division will be based in Amsterdam and the firm has tapped Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.’s Maurizio Donadi as its senior vice president, in charge of some 30 people. The team, to which further outside talent may be recruited, will develop handcrafted styles from Levi’s archives plus premium contemporary jeans and casual clothing, using the best materials on the market, according to Armin Broger, president of Levi Strauss Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

“We wanted to offer all those who love the Levi’s brand an opportunity to experience the highest expression of our design and craftsmanship,” Broger told WWD. “People today crave authenticity, honesty and simplicity in all aspects of their lives. I believe that in our industry, there is no brand with greater authenticity, truer passion or deeper expertise than Levi’s.”

Targeting selected retailers, the first designs will hit the market in 2010 and part of the collection will be made in the U.S. The division’s name, XX, is an abbreviation for “extra, extra strong,” an expression coined to refer to the quality of the denim Levi’s used to make the world’s first pair of jeans in 1873.

Donadi, who took up his role this week, is described by Broger as “highly competent and absolutely passionate about denim.”

“Levi’s jeans have always represented the honest working man to me,” Donadi stated. “From my early days in a steel factory in Italy, I was struck by the decency and pride the workers felt in their craft. Years later, I found myself the owner of a vintage denim store in Miami Beach, collecting and trading Levi’s jeans, and now I have the unique privilege to work with them every day.”

Donadi joins Levi’s with almost 30 years of fashion experience, most recently as senior vice president and brand manager for Polo Ralph Lauren’s RRL and Rugby brands since 2006. Prior to that, he was a men’s product and market researcher at Giorgio Armani SpA in Milan, having previously engineered the repositioning of Emporio Armani as executive vice president of its retail division in New York.

His denim experience includes consulting to labels like Sixty and Replay, plus helping the Diesel brand expand its U.S. presence during his four-year tenure as retail director for Diesel USA Inc. Donadi’s career started at the Benetton Group, where his 10-year tenure included posts in sales and retail, overseeing expansion in markets including France, Germany, the U.S. and the Caribbean.

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