Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your fear of getting printer’s ink on your jeans. As a revolutionary slogan, it probably wouldn’t rouse the masses to the barricades, but Levi Strauss & Co. is hoping that the universal appeal of ink on paper will draw visitors to the craft print shop it has set up in San Francisco. A temporary installation, the shop is part of a marketing campaign through which the apparel maker aims to demonstrate solidarity with America’s working people. Opened last month, the storefront shop is located at 580 Valencia Street in the city’s Mission District—not far from where Levi Strauss launched his wholesale dry goods business in 1853. Besides offering classes in letterpress, screen printing, and hand typesetting, the shop also serves as a creative space for local artists and craft printing enthusiasts.
A number of community-based organizations such as The Edible Schoolyard have used its equipment to produce promotional materials. The shop is open to the public, and on Sundays, local residents can reserve time on the machines for print projects of their own. Levi’s says that the shop, which remains open through the end of August, is the “first of what will hopefully be many Workshops scattered across our fair country.” The keynote at these sites is to be respect for the kinds of individual labor often performed by people wearing Levi’s garments as their work clothes. The workshops are the latest phase of Levi’s “We Are All Workers” campaign, an initiative that began last year with the company’s offer of $1 million in assistance to the struggling city of Braddock, PA.
PSFK, a trend and market research firm based in New York City, offered this appraisal of the workshops project in a report about a recent visit to the San Francisco site: “The most inspiring thing a brand can do is to stop mining existing cultural attitudes and start driving creative production—to engage both pioneers and the public in a participatory fashion. This is what Levi’s is doing with the Workshops. “It is a natural extension of the brand’s longstanding investment in the art/music/design worlds, and an opportunity to expand on the company’s genuine commitment to positive social change and community support.” According to PSFK, the next project will be a photographic workshop in Manhattan, followed by a recording studio in a city to be announced.