With its high-performance stretch fabrics and on-trend collections for men and women, it’s easy to forget that Lee has been in the game since 1889. The heritage denim brand celebrated its 130th anniversary this month by looking back at its legacy and using that momentum to fuel its future.
Founded by Henry David (H.D.) Lee, the brand earned its spot in the “Big Three” of the denim world alongside Levi’s and Wrangler as being a purveyor of workwear for farmers, coal miners and railroad workers in the 1910s.
The brand went on to produce the first one-piece Union-All and the zipper fly. By 1939, Lee was recognized as the largest manufacturer of workwear in the U.S. And preceding WWII, the brand was the first to bring denim to the women’s market in a major way.
Lee has maintained its place at the table. Earlier this month, Lee brought back the first women’s denim it ever made, featuring styles from the ’40s and ’50s to honor the “lovely tough girls” of the time. The Reissue collection includes the “original boyfriend jeans” and modern updates like high-waisted jeans with pearl accents.
The brand also recently worked with streetwear brand Alife on a collaboration that merges cowboy heritage and streetwear. The collection is essentially the street’s homage to Lee’s deep denim roots, with colored denim sets covered in the Alife logo and more.
These new ventures are the basis of Lee’s strategies for growing its consumer base. By appealing to new customers through creative collaborations and working with diverse influencers (including Mark Ballas, Zanna Roberts Rassi and others featured in its Fall/Winter 2019 campaign), Lee continues its role as a leader in the space.
“Lee helped create the denim category and continues to define modern culture today. Lee’s commitment to harnessing innovative technology and incredible quality to bring consumers apparel that looks good and fits great, has inspired generations of brand loyalists and solidified Lee’s position as an icon in the denim category,” Scott Baxter, Kontoor Brands president and CEO, said.
“We are honored to celebrate this milestone and are excited for our beloved brand and its promising future,” he said.