Photos: Danielle Directo-Meston/Uncover LA
When we imagined what it'd be like to create our own jeans with Levi's, we never thought we'd be temptation to quote an Austin Powers scene. We visited the San Francisco-born brand's temporary customization studio in Downtown's Arts District earlier this summer to check out their revolutionary Project F.L.X. (which stands for future-led execution) technology, a unique laser-powered design process developed by Levi Strauss & Co. at their Eureka Innovation Lab.
Led by vice president of technical innovation Bart Sights, the research and development facility joined forces with Spanish company Jeanologia to design special software and high-tech equipment that allows denim devotees to zap their own jeans to their exact specifications — from recreating their favorite vintage wash and finish to hand-picking every single shred, rip, and distressing detail.
The personalization experience was born from the Levi's bespoke denim program, Lot No. 1, which was originally only offered in SF, New York, and London. The brand slowly added Tailor Shops to select locations (including in Georgia and Texas) so customers could customize their goods with chain stitching embroidery, airbrushing, pins, patches, alterations, and other unique add-ons.
The brand will start rolling out the experience at its stores in spring 2019, but in the meantime, you can now visit the reopened Levi's store in Santa Monica (1409 Third Street Promenade), which now offers a Tailor Shop. There, you can repair, customize, and tailor your merch as well as create your own jeans (and specify the rivets, fly closure, stitching style and color, pockets, and of course, fabric) from scratch with the brand's Lot 1 service.
If you can't make it to the Westside (the 405: We get it!) you can still score custom-embroidered Levi's pieces like its classic white tees ($30 and up) and denim trucker jackets ($109 and up) online at the brand's website, where you can pick your own fabric color and embroidery font, color, and placement (like above the left chest pocket, on the full back, or on the back waist band).
Wanna learn more about what it's like to design denim with a laser? Keep reading to see the complete Levi's 501s customization process and stay tuned to find out when the service is rolled out to everyone in LA.
The Customization Process
When we visited the Levi's pop-up studio in DTLA earlier this summer, Sights was on hand to walk us through the process, starting with an iPad that allows you to specify a mid or light shade, overdye, post-wash bleach, tint, distress details, and even a logo.
We opted for a vintage-inspired, whiskered finish with a light yellow tint, then finished it with minor distressing on the right pocket and a ripped left knee. From there, it was time to see the laser in action.
The Jeanologia Laser Treatment
Laser treatments aren't all that uncommon in LA — but when it comes to fashion, it's not every day that we can take aim at our wardrobe with an intense beam of light. Jeanologia's technology not only etches the customized designs and finishes into the denim — it also cuts down on time and labor as well as reduces water consumption and doing away with waste and earth-harming carbon emissions.
Before beam does its thing, the denim is carefully placed on a special surface beneath the laser. Next, the customization station pro ensures all systems are go before each pair of jeans are zapped.
Firing the lasers!
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The Washing Process
Finally, every pair is finished off in the washer, which reuses about 250 gallons of water in a zero-waste process that "takes air from the atmosphere and transforms it into ozone, liberating the particles inside the tumbler to…give garments the real look of outdoor usage," according to Jeanologia's website.
The (Almost) Finished Product
Behold, our newly customized 501 jeans hot off the press. Here, Sights holds up our freshly designed blues ready to head to the washer.