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Levi Strauss and workwear-inspired fashion label Operations are teaming up for fall.
This story first appeared in the August 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After a successful partnership of a six-piece collection last fall, Levi’s and Operations are expanding their offering with a fuller collection this fall. Designer Matteo Gottardi headed out to Levi’s headquarters in San Francisco to work with the brand’s design team and merchandisers to create a 14-piece line called Operations for Levi Strauss & Co. According to Michael Leen, one of the founders and chief operating officer of Operations, it’s the first time Levi’s has shared its brand name with another label.
“It’s one of those natural fits,” said Leen. “Levi’s is the original workwear company, and Operations, that’s what we do. We find cool workwear and use it as a blueprint.”
He added Operations has traditionally been designed to be worn with denim, making for an easy transition with Levi’s.
Operations was founded in 2004 by Gottardi, Leen and Johannes Mahmood. The friends had been traveling through Europe and were intrigued by the work uniforms worn by workers at a construction site. Upon returning from Europe, the trio began importing European workwear and uniforms, and selling to a small customer base. In order to make the garments more wearable for daily use, Operations began redesigning pieces using higher-end fabrics and giving the garments more tailored fits. All Operations’ garments are produced in New York.
The women’s offering for Levi’s consists of eight styles, including a watchmaker vest, Scottish cavalry blazer, GI driver’s jacket and a Scottish military jacket. Retail prices range from $125 for vests to $250 for heavy blazers and up to $300 for jackets. In addition, Operations for Levi Strauss & Co. will feature two special pieces — a women’s trenchcoat and a belted short trench — that will retail exclusively at Levi’s stores in New York and San Francisco for $348.
Between 600 and 1,000 garments in each style will be produced, but only 80 of the special items will be manufactured. An initial delivery was made this week, while the full collection will ship to stores in September, followed by a final shipment in October.
Working with a brand like Levi’s has forced Operations to adapt.
“It’s great exposure, but it’s also letting us dip our toes into other areas,” said Leen.
Unlike the core Operations line, the Levi’s line is manufactured in China in order to keep costs down. Leen said initially he had concerns about using a Chinese operation, but a business partner connected the label with a small factory employing a pool of 40 local workers who had experience with higher-end fashion. Leen said he was also able to visit the factory several times during production.
Operations has also had to adjust to making larger quantities and designing for a wider audience. That said, Levi’s has been relatively hands-off when it comes to the types of products it’s looking for and how they’re designed.
“It’s a challenge, but Matteo is having a field day,” said Leen. “He loves doing products like this and he really understands what Levi’s is trying to do.”