The past few weeks have been slightly guilt inducing at Greenpeace for those of us who consider ourselves fashionistas. And since we launched our report “Toxic Threads” I’ve found it a little harder to slip into my jeans. It used to be that the random facts I knew about denim and jeans were their etymology (Pop quiz! What are the two Mediterranean cities that “denim” and “jeans” get their names from? Put the answer in comments!) but now I’ve learned some new facts about the hazardous chemicals which have been found in Levi’s clothes, and the toxic pollution these chemicals are causing in the environment. It’s an ugly story.
But guilt doesn’t do much to fix a problem – and that’s why a lot of us have been helping the Detox team challenge brands like Levi’s to clean up their toxic addictions. Thanks to the amazing work done on and offline by volunteers, fashionistas, activists and designers, the world’s largest retailer Zara has already committed to clean up their supply chain and products, and just last week it was joined by global fashion brands Mango and Esprit, who also made ambitious commitments to Detox.
But after tackling the world’s largest retailer, it was time to turn our attention to the world’s largest jeans manufacturer, which had so far failed to live up to its own “leader” label.
Things kicked off last Wednesday with the launch of our latest report, which revealed connections between Levi’s and a number of suppliers discharging hazardous chemicals into rivers in Mexico. And while the report was reaching the world’s media, 17 activists unfurled a giant 110-meter long arrow pointed at one of the pollution sites, demanding the American brand stop treating public waterways in Mexico like their own private sewers.
From there things quickly spread to Austria and Denmark, including a vertical catwalk next to one of Levi’s stores in Copenhagen, and then onwards to Tel Aviv, where a number of “Mexican brides” turned up at a Levi’s store asking for a real “commitment” from the brand. Actions in the US, including a mannequin walk-out, and in Spain in collaboration with Yolanda Dominguez, were then followed by activities in 17 countries, in more than 80 cities involving over 700 people last weekend.
From Taipei to Toronto, volunteers and activists were out in force over the weekend demanding Levi’s make fashion without pollution. This included some seriously slick dance moves outside a store in Johannesburg, and over 300 activists entering branded shops and department stores in 36 cities in Germany to “decorate” over 200 Levi’s items in each store with Detox labels.
At the heart of the weekend’s activities was a piece of artwork created by Mexican street artist Tony Collantes in Puerto Vallarta, which took over 28 hours to complete. Tony also collaborated with Greenpeace on the design of the posters and street art that was put up across the globe, with a design that fused the toxic skull and crossbones with Mexican artistry. In Taiwan alone, over 200 pieces of street art were put up, alongside 90 pieces of clean graffiti around eight Levi’s stores.
Time for Levi’s to show us what they are made of.
We are just six days into the campaign and already over 175,000 people have signed up online, adding their voices to those on the streets and in Levi’s stores. Seeing the inspiring work our volunteers and activists around the world have been getting up to, and the torrent of tweets and Facebook posts calling on the brand to respond, surely it must only be a matter of time before Levi’s listens to its customers?
After all, Mango, Zara, Esprit and Marks & Spencer have all already made credible and ambitious Detox commitments and have begun taking action to clean up their toxic habits.
So what is Levi’s waiting for?
Make your voice heard