This weekend Levi’s will launch a limited-edition customization studio in downtown Los Angeles that will allow denim lovers to create a jean finish from start to, well, finish.
Created with state-of-the-art Project F.L.X. (future-led execution), the portable studio uses the latest advances in laser-powered technology to digitize the design and development of denim finishing, enabling Levi’s to take customization to new levels. Fans can pick their denim finish — rips, fades, distressing — and wash, and watch as lasers do the work in minutes, followed by sustainable washing.
The by-appointment-only studio, which will be open through Oct. 15, is a precursor to in-store Project F.L.X. technology that will be available starting in spring 2019.
The heritage denim brand has long nurtured the custom experience, first with its Lot No. 1 program for made-to-order jeans, then with Levi’s Tailor Shops for pins, patches, alterations, repairs and chain stitch embroidery. Now, Project F.L.X. will allow customers to design their own one-of-a-kind pair of Levi’s jeans and jackets.
Throughout the studio’s 10-week stay, notable friends of the brand such as Kelly Slater, Victor Cruz, Clare Vivier and Karla Welch will create limited-edition pieces at the studio for giveaways on Levi’s Instagram platform.
“By utilizing these new methods and tools, we are able to speed up our ideation and creation process while delivering authenticity with advanced agility,” said Levi’s chief product officer Karyn Hillman.
Project F.L.X. was built in-house at LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab by a team of designers, developers, chemists and engineers, with support from the leader in denim finishing technology, Jeanologia. The aim was to revolutionize the apparel industry to eco-consciously meet the needs of the consumer and those who work in the apparel supply chain. This proprietary laser-based technology helps achieve efficiency and sustainability. Project F.L.X. stores custom-design digital files, which are translated for automated bulk manufacturing, effectively eliminating labor-intensive processes and dramatically shrinking the environmental footprint by reducing chemical-finishing formulations from thousands to dozens.
The experience downtown begins with an iPad and a “base” pair of jeans, that come in three washes. From an iPad, users place whiskers, tears, rips, logos and other details where they “like” on the front and back, and choose a wash. Next door, the jeans are laid underneath laser machines as a denim tech programs customizations into the computer, and within minutes, the finishes are imprinted on the denim, sometimes with a burst of fire to create the rips and distressed details. The jeans are next washed in low-water machines and ready within hours.
Other choices include various Levi’s logos and patterns that can be imprinted onto the backs of Trucker jackets or onto the legs of jeans.
Bart Sights, Levi’s vice president of technical innovation who runs the Eureka Lab, said, “The end-to-end digital platform is a radical departure. Thirty years ago there were only three finishes. Now we have about 1,000 and most are inspired by vintage. We capture the wear and wash on digital and laser it onto a base.”
To illustrate his point, he displayed a pair of 1971 jeans from the archive alongside a pair created in the studio, and the two were nearly identical.
“The speed of this technology allows us to create bases, then wait and see what’s selling. This can be done in market, too. It brings agility, authenticity and sustainability to the forefront.” The technology was built into Levi’s distribution centers in Las Vegas a year and a half ago, and the next step is to make it available in stores.