Levi’s x Cone Mills and the gentleman’s agreement that shaped the face of denim

Earlier this year, we put the spotlight on Cone Denim for a series of special features that helped celebrate the mill’s 110th anniversary of their White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina. The celebrations continue further for 2015 with another equally noteworthy date – the 100 Year Anniversary between Levi Strauss & Co and Cone Denim.

Known as The Golden Handshake, the historic agreement between the two iconic American companies took place back in 1915 when Levi’s was in search of a reputable denim supplier for their newly patented jean. At this time Levi’s was already using denim from Amoskeag Mill in New Hampshire on the East Coast of the United States but with production moving south, closer to where cotton was grown, the entrepreneur was in search of a new partner to help build his soon to be empire. Cone founders and brothers Moses and Caesar had already established themselves in the market for quality denim, having produced denim from their White Oak plant for over a decade. Seen as a perfect match, the agreement, with no formal contract in place, was struck granting Cone Mills the exclusive right to manufacture Levi’s proprietary Shrink-to-Fit denim for the production of all Levi’s Lot 501 Jeans.
Today, 100 years later, Levi Strauss & Co. still produces the 501 Shrink-to-Fit denim from Cone Mill’s White Oak facility in Greensboro with treasured archive details continuing to inspire the Levi’s Vintage Clothing line, of which a special “Golden Handshake” collection features for Fall/Winter 2015.
To commemorate this anniversary A Continuous Lean created a special film to pay special tribute to Cone and the hardworking folk who continue to build upon the legacy of the world’s best-selling and most cherished jean. Levi’s Vintage Clothing’s latest lookbook takes the story a step further with an incredible campaign shot against the Appalachians, neighbours to the Greensboro plant with a locally cast crew of models. Appearing as imagery from bygone eras, the series of images reinforce the rich history and roots of Levi’s and the pioneers that cemented the 501 as we know it today.

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