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How a 130-Year-Old Denim Brand Embraces Influencer Marketing

The Buddy Lee doll may be prime for meme fame, but Lee Jeans is navigating Instagram with a social media marketing strategy that allows all of its collections to shine by enlisting the help of both influencers and every day consumers.

Along with encouraging followers to tag their images with @leejeans to be featured on the brand’s website and Instagram feed, Lee Jeans is working with Brooklyn-based sister duo @natalieoffduty and @dylanasuarez to tout its Spring Vintage Modern collection. Dylana also stars in the collection’s latest look book.

Instagram has also become a platform for the 130-year-old brand to show its youthful and sartorial sides, including the new Lee x Smiley collection and designer collaboration with American fashion house, Cushnie.

Here, Lee brand manager Heather Caldwell shares with Rivet qualities the heritage brand searches for in influencers, and how social media allows the brand to connect with all of its customers.

Rivet: Lee Jeans has products that reach several demographics and retail tiers. How do you keep branding cohesive across these different segments?

Heather Caldwell: Lee is an iconic American brand that has been designing products for nearly 130 years. We have always been about serving those who are on the move, who have a vision to stand out and make their own way. All of our products stem from a core relentless determination to purposefully design apparel that offers great fit, innovative solutions and timeless style.

Rivet: How is the brand working with influencers?

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HC: Working with influencers is a key part of any apparel brand’s strategy these days. In particular, we know that women are looking to influencers for style tips and fashion advice. As we introduce more fashion forward silhouettes, partnering with influencers who understand our brand and who really align with our personality has helped introduce Lee to a younger, style driven consumer that is looking for the authenticity of a heritage brand mixed with true fashion.

Rivet: What qualities do you look for in the influencers Lee partners with?

HC: When we look for influencer partners, we align with those that will complement our brand personality: youthful spirit, authenticity, drive, entrepreneurship, and witty humor, and confidence. And of course, they have to love denim.

Rivet: What have been some of the brand’s most successful influencer events, campaigns or activations?

HC: Lee has primarily focused on working with people who are genuine fans of the brand and love the product. Our approach has been relatively organic. We were excited to partner with Carly Cushnie on the collaboration of Body Optix x Cushnie. Again, that program stemmed from an authentic connection to denim and the similarities between the unique enhancement and contouring of Body Optix and the form-fitting silhouettes that she designs.

Cushnie George Chinsee

Rivet: Has Lee benefited from the nostalgia boom that has swept across fashion?  

HC: While Lee is built on both heritage and innovation, the fact that current consumers have an appreciation for our products over the 130-year history of the brand, has been beneficial. The current nostalgia boom has offered us an opportunity to re-introduce some of Lee’s iconic products in updated fits for today’s consumers. For instance, Lee invented the Union-All in 1913. Now, 105 years later, it’s become a popular style, but the first version came from Lee. It’s been exciting to visit our archives and reimagine these heritage pieces.