By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

April 19, 2021 | 7 min read

Looking for a sales bounce-back, Levi’s is launching its new ’Buy Better, Wear Longer’ global campaign featuring an assembly of Gen Z activists and influencers. Together, they are making a plea for consumers to wear their denim longer to reduce the environmental impacts of consumerism and production.

Today, Levi’s is launching its first global campaign in three years. The ’Buy Better, Wear Longer’ initiative serves as a call-to-action for Gen Zers, urging them to reuse, repurpose and reduce their consumer footprint.

The campaign stars six young influential faces shaping the future of activism and sustainability. These are rapper Jaden Smith, Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, YouTuber Emma Chamberlain, climate activist Xiye Bastida, entrepreneur Melati Wijsen and hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

Levi’s says the six stars’ commitment to personal activism made them the right choice for the campaign, which was created by San Francisco-based AKQA. Jaden Smith is the co-founder of Just Water and has been involved in a number of efforts to bring sustainably-sourced and packaged water to those in need. Fashion lover Emma Chamberlain champions thrifting and upcycling, while Rashford, at just 23 years old, is a dedicated philanthropist and an advocate for underserved youth in Britain.

Marcus Rashford in denim jacket

“This is a celebration of the next generation of changemakers,” says Chris Jackman, vice-president of global consumer marketing at Levi’s. “We wanted to offer our platform and start a dialogue around mutual responsibility – it is critical that brands and the consumer work together to tackle these issues. When Covid hit, we took a long hard look at culture, the environment and Levi’s place in it and we got to work on producing new work that would launch in 2021. It felt like the right thing to do.”

The hope is that by targeting Gen Z with a relevant sustainability message, the brand can reverse Covid-related sales declines while also promoting longer wear times that reduce consumer footprints. Earlier this month, Levi Strauss & Co reported double digit sales declines due to the challenging retail environment. However, it has boosted its outlook for the first half the year, with company leadership predicting sales will soon return to pre-pandemic levels.

Combating the impacts of climate change, one pair of jeans at a time

The Levi’s team chose Gen Zers to lead the charge in ’Buy Better, Wear Longer’ because they represent the generation likely to face the brunt of the imminent impacts of climate change – and will need to serve as the drivers of change, according to Jackman. “These kids have been living with climate crisis their entire lives. They get it and understand the urgency. We want to connect with them to help us with the message that we’re putting out there and to try and get a movement going in terms of apparel consumption.”

The campaign includes a hero film and individual short films for each of the six stars directed by Leo Aguirre, in addition to a range of print and digital ads. In the hero film, the stars chime in about the value of reduced consumer activity. “Global clothing consumption has doubled in the last 15 years. We can change that,” Smith says in the opening scene. He stands in a studio draped in heaps of clothing, which are then thrust off to reveal a simple sweatshirt and pair of jeans. “When we make better, we can buy better,” Xiye Bastida says, wielding a megaphone in a protest scene. “And when we buy better, we can wear longer,” says Chamberlain, filming herself in classic YouTube style.

Xiye Bastida

Jackman says the campaign will be activated primarily through digital and social channels – ideal for reaching the brand’s target Gen Z audience. While the hero film debuts today, the influencers’ individual films will roll out on social media on a staggered basis over the coming weeks. “The influencers and their fans play a role in that there’s a connection and trust that they have with one another,” says Jackman says. ”We want this work to feel like an extension of their beliefs.”

The brand sees ’Buy Better, Wear Longer’ as an expression not only of the influencers’ beliefs, but of its own too. “Levi’s has an almost 150-year history of creating things that last longer,” says Bryan Dempler, associate creative director, AKQA. “And that’s a very simple truth. But if you really unpack it, longevity is sustainability. If something lasts longer, I can wear it for longer. I’m wearing a pair of jeans that is 31 years old.”

The campaign fits into to the brand’s sustainability-focused goal to “make things better“. Levi’s has debuted a number of environmentally-conscious production practices in recent years: the brand invests in lower-impact materials such as organic cotton and hemp, and also seeks to reduce its water consumption through its Water

Will a message to buy less yield more love?

A study by the Global Fashion Agenda in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group found that 75% of consumers view sustainability as extremely or very important. And while Levi’s seeks to inspire consumers to buy less and wear longer, will the brand’s sales take another hit as a result?

Dempler, at least, doesn’t think so. “When it comes to the bottom line, people buy the things they love, and they buy them again eventually. Brand love will equal sales in the end. But when it comes to sustainability, it’s not the point. The point is to find the thing you love and just wear it longer. One of my favorite lines in the campaign is: ‘The more you wear them, the better they get.’ And I don’t think there’s anything more true about a pair of Levi's because the more you wear them, the more they reflect you and your life. Maybe it’s as simple as keeping your cell phone in the same pocket, which creates this cool wear mark. Or maybe it’s a live hem or people making shorts or putting patches and pins [on their jeans]. They inherently become reflections of you.”

But no one’s opinions matter more than the influencers tapped to spread the message. Jaden Smith said in a statement: “The world we live in encourages us to constantly buy. It puts us in this bad cycle. I’m glad that Levi’s is changing that message by making thrifting cool. Some of my favorite pairs are thrifted. And I’m even more happy to see that Levi’s is supporting these amazing young voices who are all speaking up for the environment.”

Jaden Smith crouching in jeans

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