Levi’s is making bank on high-rise jeans and jorts

Joan Smalls at Levi’s “Party in the Desert.”
Joan Smalls at Levi’s “Party in the Desert.”
Image: Blair Raughley/Invision for Levi's/AP Images
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Levi’s is finding success with its focus on women’s bottoms.

The company gets nearly 70% of its sales from men’s bottoms, and has in recent years zeroed in on women as a clear opportunity for growth. So far, so good: Levi’s latest quarter marked its 10th in a row with double-digit growth in its women’s business.

On a call with analysts, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh pointed out some of the recent highlights, among them strong sales of women’s high-rise fits, and a boost for the brand’s cutoff shorts—jorts if you will—resulting from April’s Coachella. “In the second quarter, we again dominated Coachella as the go-to uniform for festival season with Levi’s 501 cutoff shorts, which were up more than 50% this quarter, taking center stage,” he said.

The site Fashionista noted during the festival that “Levi’s cutoffs—to varying degrees of butt visibility—have been the unofficial Coachella uniform, with performers and attendees alike regularly choosing to wear the brand.” In part, that’s because Levi’s took full advantage of the marketing opportunity offered by the festival, including launching a campaign with model Hailey Bieber that used the cutoffs, and handing out well over a thousand pairs of the shorts before and during the event.

Levi’s has also become a destination for women seeking the high-rise fits Bergh mentioned. The company has had success with styles such as the Wedgie, and this year introduced a new one dubbed, appropriately, the Ribcage. “Boasting Levi’s highest-ever rise—a whole 12 inches—the Ribcage is specifically designed to whittle the waist while defining your hips and bum to peachy perfection,” Who What Wear explained.

In total, Levi’s women’s business grew 16% in the quarter, Bergh said on the call. The business in men’s bottoms, meanwhile, grew 5%.

The results weren’t all so peachy. Levi’s wholesale business in the US shrank slightly, mainly due to the store closures and bankruptcies knocking many mass retailers. “It’s a little bit of a melting iceberg,” Bergh said. The company also reported a $49 million drop in its net income, owing mostly to $29 million in costs from its IPO in March. The amount, it said, included “$25 million of underwriting commissions paid on behalf of the selling stockholders.”