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Levi's Vintage Clothing

The story behind the true vintage reproductions

Nowadays, to get your hands on an authentic reproduction of century-old jeans is not that big of a deal. But it hasn’t been always like that. Just 20 years ago, the only vintage replicas were made by obscure brands barely available outside of Japan.

That’s where it all started. By the early 80s most of the major American brands were already established in Japan thanks to the cult-like following started by popular catalog type magazines. Still many young people could not afford them, so they preferred to shop deadstock clothing - and specifically Levi’s 501s - imported from the U.S. But the increasing demand and limited supply soon drove up prices. As the decade progressed the price for deadstock pair of Levi’s jeans from the 1960s grew as much as 500%. It didn’t take long before local enthusiasts started making their own vintage inspired jeans in order to substitute the now rare and expensive originals.

Hajime Tanaka, Executive at Levi’s Japan, encountered a pair of 501 replicas in Paris and soon after decided that the iconic American brand needed its own vintage collection. He dreamed about recreating the original selvage denim with Cone Mills, but after rejection from headquarters he found out that the French jeans' fabric was produced by Japanese mill Kurabo. In 1987, after requesting an exclusive supply from Kurabo, Levi’s Japan introduced the first-ever official replica jeans.

It wasn’t until 1999, when the Levi’s Vintage Clothing division was born. By that time, buyers from Japan, UK and France smuggled out most of the American deadstock, and dozens of vintage-inspired denim brands popped up in Japan. But they didn’t have the advantage that Levi’s had for almost a hundred years. The Golden Handshake, the agreement without any formal contracts in place, which granted Levi’s with exclusive supply of Cone Mills Shrink-to-Fit selvage denim. This partnership still allows Levi’s to recreate the very same fabrics from different eras reproducing all the original details down to hues and textures.

Levi’s Vintage Clothing line covers the period in time from as early as 1870s up to 1980s. Each season’s collection is inspired by a certain theme, be it construction workers of 1930s New York or underground soul labels of the Motown era or Levi’s very own Elesco baseball team formed at the turn of the centuries. Every pair of Levi’s Vintage Clothing jeans is meticulously reproduced to the exact same specifications as they were back in a day including fit, details and even packaging. By choosing LVC not only do you buy a spectacular pair of jeans, but you also step outside the limits of fashion to discover the authentic American history.


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