Curated by Tracey Panek, ‘Icons, Innovations & Firsts. Stories of Heritage and Progress from the Levi’s® Archives’ featured garments from the Levi’s® archives in San Francisco, the brand’s hometown, and is an exploration of the brand’s rich and fascinating heritage, highlighting the evolution and impact of modern blue jeans since its invention in 1873.

It all began with a collaboration between Levi Strauss & Co. and a tailor named Jacob Davis, who added rivets to the pockets of work trousers, creating a major design innovation. Davis shared his trousers with copper rivets with his supplier of goods, Levi Strauss. The two joined forces for a US patent that was granted on 20 May 1873.

Levi Strauss & Co. began its production by making Levi’s® patented riveted dungarees, later identified by their three-digit lot number: 501®. The exhibition explores the history of the Levi’s® brand and the original blue jeans over the last 150 years, illustrating the origins and evolution of this iconic garment.

Through the many social, technical and cultural innovations since the beginning of this extraordinary journey, the pioneering archive garments in the exhibition invite us to think about progress. From the ‘Icons’ section featuring garments by Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein, who have worn Levi’s® pieces over the years, to ‘Innovations’ showing the innovations that Levi’s® has spearheaded over time, such as the Levi’s® Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google – one of the first garments with wearable technology – to ‘Firsts’, which presents the original iconic blue jeans for men and later for women. The exhibition is a story interwoven like no other, much like the denim fabric that is at the heart of the Levi’s® brand DNA, with that of the people who believed deeply that other worlds were possible.

Tracey Panek, Levi’s® Historian and curator of the exhibition, commented: ‘It is exciting to celebrate the impact of Levi’s® on design and culture over the last 150 years and to do so at an institution like MUDEC, with its impressive reputation, is incredibly symbolic.  Inaugurating the exhibition in conjunction with Milan Design Week, one of the most important events in the design world, makes it all the more meaningful’.

Tuxedo jacket 1951
Levi’s x Air Jordan 2008
Functional fashion jeans 1975
Sta-Prest jeans aka ‘Prison pants’ 1979