Levi’s Vintage Clothing recreates a 1975 soapbox derby – COOL HUNTING®


Levi’s Vintage Clothing, a subset of the largest clothing manufacturer, draws on styles, textiles and trends from the past as a raw material. Each season, or for each special release, the design team examines the brand’s rich history for relevant stories or moments of today. For their Spring / Summer 2020 campaign, they recreated a 1975 soapbox derby hosted by SFMOMA (to celebrate their transition from the San Francisco Museum of Art to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) which was sponsored by SF-local Levi’s.

The original images and video of the Soapbox Derby remained in SFMOMA’s archives until Levi’s Vintage Clothing chief designer Paul O’Neill knocked on the door. The washed-out hues of the stage and its inherent eccentricity made the moment right for reproduction. It encapsulated San Francisco during its bohemian heyday. It also happened, since the brand was a sponsor, that a lot of people present and participating wore Levi’s styles.

The unique event raised funds for the museum and attracted thousands of people. Running 800 feet down a steep road in McLaren Park, the soapbox racers were shameless themselves, unaware that they would one day be the inspiration for a Levi’s collection. The reproduction also includes a photo-rich hardcover book intended to mimic each artist’s behind-the-scenes soapbox production. Cheerful, rebellious and undoubtedly creative, the modern interpretation acts as a tribute but also as a neat period piece organized with the greatest attention to detail.

“Levi’s has a strong connection to SFMOMA, and we were one of the original sponsors of the derby,” said O’Neill. “SFMOMA has an incredible archive of images from the event that we were fortunate enough to have access to during our research. We also searched our own archives and found pieces from this era that we could use to tell this story through faithful reproductions. We were really inspired by the washed out colors in SFMOMA images, so the collection features a lot of pastels and softer tones found in those old photos. Everything is very 70s Bay Area bohemian.

Spring / Summer 2020 pieces include a pastel corduroy top and bottom set, open button yellow work shirt, dark and faded denim jackets and jeans, colorful tees, pink flannel and more. The complete collection is available now in the Levi’s online store.

Images by Immo Klink for Levi’s

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