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Levi’s Expands Partnership with Latin American Artisan Organization

Levi’s is growing a long-standing relationship in Latin America.

The denim brand will add bucket hats, aprons and tote bags to the product range developed with Mercado Global, a not-for-profit accessories brand that supports Indigenous women and their communities in Latin America.

The organization’s business model brings together market access, community-based education and asset development into a program focused on financial independence to overcome poverty, Levi’s wrote on its blog, Unzipped. Mercado Global provides women with sewing machines and looms to work on products for brands as well as for their own businesses.

The sustainable accessories collection launching in 2023 was developed with Levi’s design and accessories teams. Products will combine denim with the artisans’ handwoven fabrics.

Two seasons ago, the brand added handwoven Mercado Global fabrics as customizable options at select Levi’s tailor shops and will also continue doing so next year.

Levi’s established its partnership with Mercado in 2007 when it sourced handmade Guatemalan fabrics from the latter’s network of artisans. Levi’s was the organization’s first major retail partner. 

“Back when we were a relatively small organization, Levi’s believed in us and our mission,” said Ruth Álvarez-DeGolia, Mercado Global founder and executive director.

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A few years before the Levi’s brand began working with Mercado, the Levi Strauss Foundation provided early funding to help it increase its capacity and scale its cooperative model. Since those early years, the foundation has been a critical partner and has invested over $1.5 million in the organization.

Mercado Global’s retail partners have grown to include Reformation, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Free People, Lucky Brand and more.

Since 2004, 1,250 women have been trained and graduated as Mercado Global artisans and an estimated 7,000 community members have been impacted by their work. Levi’s reports that more than $6 million in sales have been generated to improve the livelihoods of artisans. 

“Funding from the Levi Strauss Foundation has been vital to the success of Mercado Global over the years,” Álvarez-DeGolia said. “The foundation’s trust and flexibility has allowed us to grow as an organization and reach heights that at times we did not think were possible.”