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NEW YORK — Levi Strauss & Co. is no stranger to expensive blue jeans.
The San Francisco-based company sells some styles that retail for up to $250 and, a few years back, shelled out $46,352 for a pair of jeans it had produced in the 1880s that is now the oldest pair of jeans in Levi’s extensive archive.
But topping even that, the company has produced a pair of jeans that it said are worth about $85,000 — and it plans to give it away.
In a bid to build publicity for the company’s new Type One style of jeans, due to hit stores this spring, the company is running a contest inviting consumers to guess what town the jeans, decorated with a 2.5 karat diamond and 112 rubies, are hidden. People who correctly guess can enter a drawing to win the jeans, which have a 32-inch waist and 32-inch inseam. A Levi’s spokeswoman said the pockets of the jeans will be filled with enough cash and gold to raise the prize’s value to $150,000, in honor of the firm’s 150th anniversary.
The jewels are intended to accentuate the classic icons of Levi’s jeans, with four diamonds decorating the fly buttons and the rubies surrounding the gold two-horse patch. The red tab label is painted with white gold.
The Type One styles also exaggerate the design elements, but with emphasized stitching and oversized buttons, at a more modest price point. The launch will also mark the first major test of Levi’s market segmentation strategy, through which it will try to sell jeans with the same basic design — but different fabrics and fits — at retail prices from $35 to $95.
In what the spokeswoman described as a “viral” marketing campaign, the company will begin offering clues to the jeans whereabouts on its Web site, levis.com. The final clue is to appear in a TV ad during the Super Bowl on Jan. 26.
The 60-second spot, to appear during the second quarter of the game, will be an homage to the firm’s history, with a 21st-century feel, according to the spokeswoman. The ads were created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
Playing off of a gold rush theme, the campaign will describe the jeans as being buried in a U.S. town that figures in Levi’s history. While the company has been based in San Francisco since its founding 150 years ago, Bavarian immigrant Strauss first came to the U.S. via New York in 1847 and worked his way across the country as a peddler of dry goods. That leaves a lot of options for cities connected to the company.
The spokeswoman said that the jeans will be kept in the town, but will be secure and will not actually be buried underground. The firm is discouraging consumers who think they’ve figured out the clue from trying to actually find the jeans.
“We don’t want people digging up other people’s backyards,” she said. “They will need to enter their guess online.”