SAN FRANCISCO (TND) — The CEO of the iconic American clothing company Levi Strauss & Co. says his company's collection of "gender-neutral or gender-fluid" clothing options is something he supports and sees growing despite the fierce pushback Anheuser-Busch has received for its partnership with a transgender activist.
During a conference event hosted by Axios on Thursday, Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh was asked by Axios reporter Hope King about marketing products to a market made of consumers who are "more aware of their gender identities" while some consumers are apparently growing increasingly upset at what they would say is corporate social activism, like Bud Light's partnership with Dylan Mulvaney.
Bergh responds that his company is simply responding to the demand for clothing that neither conforms to traditional male nor female identities.
We actually have a gender-neutral line. It was a small collection,” Bergh said during the conference. “And we know that women buy some men’s product and men buy some women’s product. We know that goes on, we’ve got the market research and the data to show it, and that’s great. We are kind of building out slowly, starting with a very small collection of gender-neutral or gender-fluid lines and there is definitely consumer appetite for that, and we’re there for that."
Levi's, the well-known Levi Strauss & Co. brand mostly associated with jeans, does have a section on its website that offers a "Guide to Unisex Style."
On that website, the brand says that "Levi’s are designed to be worn by anyone and everyone, regardless of gender."
An advertisement embedded into that website page features two models: One, named Jesus, is a person with long hair and a beard wearing a long denim dress, and the other, named Matia, is a person in a mullet who says they experience "a lot more freedom" while wearing traditionally masculine clothing items.
It started when I was really young out of a need to feel special. I realized that as a man, we didn’t have all that women had to play with, so I decided that I would," Jesus is quoted as saying.
I think in general, queer people are very attached to imagery because they’re ways we found to feel included and to differentiate ourselves," the website quotes Matia saying.
Levi's has also unveiled its efforts to celebrate the upcoming Pride Month in June. A section of its website asks "How Do You Show Up" and features the company's "Pride 2023 cast" which includes "six inspiring LGBTQ+ individuals from across the globe, living as their authentic selves and helping others do the same."
Critics have long since been pushing back against what they see as corporate sponsorship of LGBT ideology and lifestyle. Most recently, the biggest pushback received by a company is most likely the controversy surrounding Bud Light and its partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, which was revealed at the beginning of April.
Mulvaney's partnership with Bud Light consisted of the social media personality sharing with her nearly 2 million followers that the beer company was celebrating her first anniversary of transitioning genders by creating a beer can with her face on it. It was apparently part of Bud Light's more extensive Pride campaign: "Celebrat[ing] everyone's identity."
The transgender activist and social media personality also shared a few other posts featuring her promoting Bud Light. One was for March Madness and another featured her soaking in a bathtub while drinking the beer brand.
Conservative backlash towards the partnership was fierce. Calls to boycott the light beer brand spread like wildfire, with a poll showing that more than half of Americans supported boycotting Bud Light. Some social media videos have gone viral for showing the apparent effects of the boycott, including empty lines for Bud Light vendors at baseball games. Also, people have allegedly been attacked by others who thought they broke the boycott.
Data seems to back the claims that boycotts of the beer brand are working. Bud Light sales were down, according to Bump Williams Consulting. Bud Light sales for the third week in April were down 21.4% compared to the same time last year. The week before, sales were down 17%.
Bud Light has made some moves following the backlash and calls for a boycott of its product over the partnership with Mulvaney. Alissa Heinerscheid, the vice president of marketing for Bud Light, has reportedly taken a leave of absence following the fierce outpouring of backlash her beer brand recently experienced.
Ad Age, among the first to report on Heinerscheid's leave, says that she will be replaced by Todd Allen for the time being. Allen was reportedly most recently a global vice president for Budweiser.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Bud Light has begun giving away its product for free to distributors following the backlash. Bud Light has also reportedly hired consultants who have experience within conservative circles of Washington D.C. to advise the beer brand as it attempts to move forward.
However, again, Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh apparently isn't worried about experiencing similar backlash.
The National Desk has reached out to Levi Strauss & Co. regarding Bergh's comments but did not hear back before publication.
If a response is received, it will be added to this article.