How Levi's Aims to Cover the World's Butts in Denim

Last Updated Apr 19, 2010 11:54 AM EDT

When we last checked in on Levi Strauss, I wondered if the beleaguered jeans manufacturer's resources would be better spent in expansion strategies rather than leveling litigation against Japanese brand Evisu for taking an homage to the brand's vintage styles into copyright infringement territory. Since then the company's revealed that it is indeed pushing into the global market, with strategies that are thankfully not shrink-to-fit, but customized for the target market.

First, to tap into the recent uptick in the luxury market, Levi's introduced Made & Crafted, a premium line aimed at a well-heeled guy whose got a passion for premium denim. The jeans retail at around $150 so Levi's smartly installed them where such prices would hardly raise an eyebrow: Saks (SKS), Barney's, and a favorite boutique of New York's fashion cognoscenti, Opening Ceremony.

Next, a "re-crafted" Levi's flagship store opened on Regent Street in London's West End to much fanfare, including a launch party concert featuring the musical stylings of such cult local bands as Fenech Soler and the Rotten Hill Gang. The store's merchandise is curated to feature the latest collections which can be examined and experienced in Levi's Inspection Room. In the spirit of Anthropologie's (URBN) recent London retail/art gallery marketing mélange, Levi's Regent Street store will also feature a storefront space to showcase a revolving mix of exclusive product collaborations and art exhibitions.

Levi's is now announcing expansion in China. Though the company abruptly withdrew its Chinese manufacturing operations in 1993 citing the country's "pervasive violation of human rights," Levi's is now stepping back in with plans to open more stores that will feature a new brand aimed at upwardly mobile young men -- a class of consumers that barely existed a decade ago. This comes on the heels of a new advertising campaign dubbed "Modern Originals" which, much like its London initiatives, is calculated to appeal to talented, indie creatives of all stripes.

Though it's too early to tell how these tactics will treat the balance sheet, Levi's has reason to be optimistic. First quarter revenue rose 9 percent to $1.04 billion, on growth of the brand's world-wide footprint and favorable exchange rates.