The classic American brand is funding efforts to support immigrants, ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ community
Levi’s is putting its money where its mouth is.
The denim label is donating $1 million via the Levi Strauss Foundation to a range of non-profits, many of whom serve communities that feel targeted by actions taken by President Donald Trump’s administration. The denim brand hopes the money will further advocacy and legal support efforts by organizations such as Council of American-Islamic Relations, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Transgender Law Center.
“Some of these communities are feeling the bunker mentality,” says Daniel Lee, executive director of the foundation, adding that after the election “our chief executive told us that this is a moment in unprecedented times to show the country what it means to live our values.” Since its creation in 1952, the foundation has given away $300 million to about 1,000 charities.
Though Trump made controversial comments about ethnic minorities, women and gays during last year’s presidential campaign, the foundation waited a few weeks after he took office to see if the rhetoric matched the reality. “We realized certain communities that we care about were really in the crosshairs of the executive orders,” says Lee. He points out that there has been a surge of interest among illegal immigrants in speaking to legal counsel, while LGBTQ advocacy groups have reported that more transgender individuals are moving to get identity cards coherent with their gender identity.
Levi’s is not the only corporation that is making moves to support these communities. In January, Google set up a $4 million crisis fund to support groups like the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, while online retail giant Amazon has that company lawyers would support moves to fight the White House’s executive orders on immigration and refugees.
Unlike these so-called “New Economy” companies however, Levi’s is strongly associated with the “America First” frontiersman image that Trump has tried to project. Its blue jeans are intimately linked with images of cowboys going out west to seek their fortune, while denim has long been the workingman’s fabric of choice.
But the foundation says reality is more complex. “We are a company founded by an immigrant who escaped religious persecution in Bavaria, who founded the company in a city made by immigrants, in a country built by immigrants,” says Lee of privately-held Levi’s, which was founded in San Francisco.
In this highly politicized atmosphere though, will customers who don’t necessarily agree with progressive values shop elsewhere? Lee says the response to his foundation’s efforts have been “really positive” and that it’s supported more controversial causes before, including donating to fight the HIV epidemic in the 1980s when it was still called the “gay cancer.”
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