Find out how the iconic denim brand became a part of the Star Wars galaxy in Star Wars: A New Hope and with its latest collection.
Levi’s have been a part of the fabric of the Star Wars galaxy since the beginning, when the costume for Luke Skywalker incorporated a pair of bleached white Levi's jeans into the standard wardrobe of a Tatooine moisture farmer.
Jonathan Cheung, now the senior vice president of design innovation at Levi's, can still recall exactly how he felt seeing Star Wars: A New Hope unfold for the first time in the theater. “I remember being absolutely gobsmacked, open mouthed, breathless in the cinema when I watched it,” Cheung says. “It must have been 1977? And it remains, to this day, my personally most-watched film in a cinema. I watched it at least five times in its first release.”
Flash forward more than 40 years later, and those shared histories have combined for the first Star Wars X Levi's collection, a new line that incorporates everything from subtle hints of the opening crawl woven into selvedge, the edge of the denim visible only at the cuff, to entire space battles printed onto fabric for a bold, standout look.
Spend a few moments talking to Cheung and it’s clear that he’s deeply invested in both the emotional pull of Star Wars storytelling and the storied history of denim as a pop culture staple. Levi’s didn’t just make the cut as part of Mark Hamill’s wardrobe in the first Star Wars film, the San Francisco-based denim maker was also worn by the crew behind the scenes. “So many people working on the set wore Levi’s, George Lucas being notably one of them,” Cheung says. The two brands joining forces now, at the end of the Skywalker saga, only seems natural. “If you’re from around these parts then your kind of default pair of pants are Levi’s. That’s how the Luke Skywalker pants came about. They’re the default option.”
Cheung recently sat down with StarWars.com to talk about his philosophical approach to the new collection, the aptly-named denim Jedi on his design team, and exactly how he felt walking into Lucasfilm for the first time.
Wear the pants
At its core, the new collection is Levi’s standard issue, infused with new prints, buttons and looming details, and unexpected plays on Star Wars quotes and nostalgic imagery. “Essentially it’s kind of T-shirts and jeans, which is the Levi’s uniform,” Cheung says. But it’s anything but business as usual.
For the subtlest piece in the collection, a special loom was used to weave “May the Force Be with You” in black and yellow on the selvedge, typically the red line at the ankle of a pair of jeans that marks the edge of the weaving at the seam. “It is such a universal uplifting phrase, you know?” Cheung says. “It’s the kind of thing you might tell yourself or your children before you face a particular challenge.” And the technique itself invokes “several layers of nerdiness” in terms of the history of Levi’s denim and weaving processes overall. “It tends to be much more rare and much more expensive and I think we went the extra mile with this by customizing that selvedge,” Cheung says.
Leave them uncuffed and no one will even know you’re wearing a piece of Star Wars apparel. “It’s their personal secret. If they didn’t cuff the jeans up, no one would know at all. So we wanted that as well. If you know, you know.”
Pieces in the line also include customized buttons in the same hue as the crawl. “The buttons are black with yellow writing, which is unique for this. We’ve never done that.”
Future fan-made vintage
Standard-issue denim jackets have an added pop of color on back panels printed to recreate one of the very first posters for the films among other designs. Cheung says the poster piece in particular was intended as a nod to fans customizing their own denim jackets for years. “We were looking to recreate fan-made vintage,” Cheung says. “There’s a future-vintage flavor to it. You can’t quite place the timeline. It feels very familiar and has that nostalgia but also it’s new.”
Toying with you
A few of the shirts and pullovers incorporate images of the original Kenner action figures that captured so many imaginations when the films were first released. “We wanted to evoke this feeling of delight,” Cheung says. “We wanted to find a connection that wasn’t obvious. ‘Oh wow, it’s different!’”