Levi's plans for more innovation with new stadium

Levi's has been putting its name on jeans for 140 years. Now, the familiar red tab will be worn by something much larger.

The Levi's Stadium is set to open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, reports CBS News' John Blackstone.

The facility in Santa Clara, California, is a way for the clothing maker to weave its legacy into a larger game-plan for revival. Fans are already nicknaming the stadium as "field of jeans," "the denim dome" and "win one for the zipper."

Levi's CEO Chip Bergh bought the naming rights to the new home of the San Francisco 49ers for $220 million. A bargain, he said.

"The average Super Bowl spot last year went for $4 million -- a 30 second spot," Bergh said. "So we're excited to have the Super Bowl here in 2016 and we'll probably have a couple more."

And in a nod to neighboring Silicon Valley, expect a high-tech experience.

"You'll be able to come here with your iPad or iPhone and not just order your drinks from the refreshment stand, but you can command your own playback, you can command the camera angle that you want to look at the playback on," Bergh said.

For Levi's the innovation doesn't stop at the stadium.

"We had lost our mojo and lost our relevance with consumers," Bergh said.

Bergh was brought in three years ago to re-build the brand after a 15-year slide. Levi's dropped from sales as high as $7 billion in 1996 to $4 billion in 2011.

Bergh said the company "missed the boat for awhile" in keeping up with the latest styles for certain demographics.

"We have the lost generation of 20-year-olds basically where we didn't hit the fashion trend right," he said. "Innovation is critical to our future."

At their research and development lab, nicknamed "Eureka," they are designing the fall line for 2015 and using science to give jeans that well-worn look.

Denim is aged with laser beams, washed in ozone gas "which is a powerful oxidizer which requires no water" and soaked with sweat.

"We actually have people that just sweat, right into the vials -- but no, simulated sweat!" joked Bergh. "And then we test it on the fabric, bake it to see what kind of impact it has over time on the fabric itself."

The goal is to make jeans both fashionable and sustainable.

"We launched a product a year ago called 'wasteless' that had recycled bottles woven into cotton fabric itself," Bergh said.

But as Levi's looks to the future it never forgets its past. The company is still privately owned by the family of its founder, Levi Strauss.

Bob Haas is a great, great grandnephew of Levi Strauss. He was the company's CEO for fifteen years, and he's the one to thank for casual Fridays.

"I was happy to do that. It was a cute story, about that," Haas said. "We proposed that we allow employees to come one day a week dressed in our product. And we saw that the business didn't grind to a halt, and from that we realized there's a real opportunity here for more than just our company."

Long before casual Fridays, Hollywood bad boys like James Dean and Marlon Brando made jeans a symbol of rebellion. Bruce Springsteen unknowingly sold millions after his "Born in the USA" cover.

But Levi's earliest history is locked in a vault -- the combination, top secret. Inside, there is about half a million dollars worth of vintage denim.

"We invented the blue jean in 1873," said Levi's historian Lynn Downey, showing CBS News one of the oldest two pairs of jeans in the world.

"What do you imagine the miner who wore these would have thought of the people today who buy their jeans already fashionably worn?" Blackstone asked her.

"I just think they'd laugh -- they'd just fall off their horses and fall off their fences and laugh," Downey said.

Crooner Bing Crosby was a loyal Levi's customer, but in 1951 he was turned away from a hotel for wearing jeans.

"So we made Bing Crosby a denim tuxedo jacket," Downey said. They have an exact replica of what Levi's made for Crosby.

levisdenimtuxedobingcrosby-1024x576.jpg

Bing Crosby wears Levi's denim tuxedo

Courtesy of Levi's

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