(Chris Devlin) #1

136


FORTUNE.COM // JUNE.1.19


HOUSED IN A SMALL PROTOTYPING


factory in San Francisco’s Tele-
graph Hill neighborhood, Levi’s
Eureka Innovation Lab churns out
not a stitch of denim. Instead,
it solves big problems for the
166-year-old apparel maker, which
recently relisted its shares publicly
and returns to the Fortune 500 for
the first time in seven years.
For instance, in one corner of the
18,000-square-foot space, a team
works on the company’s Screened
Chemistry Program, which seeks to
replace chemicals that are hazard-
ous to human health and the envi-
ronment with safer alternatives.
In another corner, a crew experi-
ments with lasers to make Levi’s
supply chain more agile during the
denim’s “finishing” process.
“Forty years ago, there were
only three finishes: dark stone-
wash, medium stonewash, and
light stonewash,” says Bart Sights,
Levi’s vice president of techni-
cal innovation. “Fast-forward to
today, we do about a thousand
different finishes every season.
Just our company.” Using the
new laser-finishing treatment,
the company has essentially gone
back to the future, producing only
the three base styles, then letting
far-flung Levi facilities finish the
jeans locally.
Eureka’s 30-person crew in-
cludes tailors, software develop-
ers, and other experts. All have
one thing in common: Everyone
knows how to produce the com-
pany’s legendary 501 jeans.

SKUNKWORKS


The jeansmaker’s Eureka
Innovation Lab in San
Francisco uses lasers,
pigments, and ingenuity
to keep it technologically
fashion-forward.

LEVI’S


500


500 R ANK