The Levi's Eureka Innovation Lab, founded in San Francisco in 2013, serves as an in-house innovation center for design, research and development. In this creative environment the new fits, finishes and fabrics are created. With the newly created 360 ° View, Levi's wants to provide consumers an insight into the development process of jeans. The daily routines and the different areas of production are shown, including the large industrial washing machines, jeans rolls, laser machines and inflatable plastic dummies, which serve to adapt the jeans fit. Here Bart Sights, VP Innovation, Levi Strauss & Co., talked about the importance of the Lab and his passion for denim.
What’s exactly the idea of Levi’s Eureka Innovation Lab 360° Experience?
The 360 Experience is a way for our consumers and fans to have a peak into our world.  The Eureka Innovation Lab is the brand’s denim atelier of the future. It’s like a small factory. We opened Eureka in 2013 and it’s located a short walk from Levi’s San Francisco headquarters. It’s 2500 square meters and the space has an open and airy feel to it and originates from the late 19th century, at which time it was a mill. It’s an environment focused on experimentation and includes different functional areas including sewing, washing, manual applications, and a tailoring shop. 
We are a team of 30 or so people, which includes seamstresses, denim finishing specialists and craftspeople. We work closely with Levi’s design teams and with our archive – which is housed nearby at our headquarters – to create prototypes of new products and bring to life technical, conceptual and seasonal developments in fits, finishes, fabric and prints.
What are your intentions regarding consumers? Do you hope to improve sales? Or is it more about brand awareness?

Eureka is critical to our business and involved in key parts of our product design and development processes. The starting point for us is always how we can make something that is relevant, meaningful and adds value to consumers. The insight can be driven by functional needs, more stylistic considerations or both. We think about what people are doing in that jean – whether they’re going out in the evening and want to look and feel good or skateboarding, where comfort and durability are also as important as how you look. We innovate by understanding what’s needed, not by what can be done. 
This way of thinking enables us to come up with new ways of working with denim. These fledgling ideas become prototypes, and prototypes become products. 
We treat the Lab as a rapid prototyping facility, where an idea can be turned into a pair of jeans. Ultimately, our continued investment in innovation and the work we’re doing at Eureka helps us differentiate us as a brand from the rest of the industry. The result is more agility, and products made using less resources, in particular, less water. It also gives us the opportunity to work on smaller scale collaborations.

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How does the creative process look like? Where does the team get its inspiration from and how is this transferred on the jean?

Our team works at the intersection of art and science.  We research at a component level.  We are inspired by our Design teams to use these components to execute their seasonal collections. In addition to focusing on making product that adds value and looks great, at Eureka we’re also able to test the feasibility to produce them on a large scale. Sustainability is something that’s particularly important for us as a brand – continuing to challenge ourselves on making products but with less resources. For example, we pioneered using less water in our finishing process through Levi’s Water-Less program, which has enabled us to save more than 770 million liters of water.

At the Lab, we create prototypes for new denim developments that shape not just the Levi’s we live in, but the entire industry – from washes to treatments, to advances in sustainability. At any given time, eight to 10 large-scale projects are underway. Each pair of jeans has a numbered ‘recipe’, a step-by-step guide to the manual, chemical and mechanical processes that created it, which must be systematically organized, recorded and tested.
You are well-known as a real denim guru. What is so fascinating about working with denim?

Well, I am no guru.  I am fortunate to have many years of experience, which is valuable.  But I am surrounded by a team of very talented and creative individuals, who approach every day and every project as if they were one being, which is really the key to success.  We all share a maniacal fascination with processes and products that are unseen, meaning they haven’t been done or seen before.  That is what drives us.  We literally can’t wait to get in here in the morning. In my opinion, that is fairly rare, and we are very appreciative for the opportunity.

What do jeans mean to you?

Jeans are a unique piece of wearing apparel, which have passed the test of time.  It is rare in any product segment to have something that you use every single day, that is inherently functional, sexy, and tells a story of your experiences in life.  I think that is the true meaning of jeans.

What do you like about the jeans you are currently wearing?

I am wearing a pair of customized 501’s.  I like how they exhibit that true meaning- I have been wearing them almost every day for a year, so they are obviously quite functional for me at work. I like how they make me feel good about myself and how I look. And I love that I can see and be reminded of the past, while trusting that they are going to last well into the future, which will bring even more sentiment.  I love these pants.

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