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Levi’s Designer Jonathan Cheung Shares Advice for Future Denim Designers

Levi’s SVP of design Jonathan Cheung is designing through an increasingly sustainable and innovation-led lens.

With the advent of automation and laser technologies, increasing awareness about sustainability and ever-changing fashion trends, his role as a designer extends well beyond a pencil and sketch pad.

In fact, designers increasingly must work on their toes. “As the booms and busts in the financial markets have shown us time and time again, the future is incredibly hard to predict,” Cheung said.

However, what can be guaranteed is that there will be change.

“Life is a series of sprints. Human progress isn’t linear, but it comes in jumps that are ignited by technological innovations, so let’s be ready to jump. The best way to do this is to be curious, persistent, super open-minded, self-analytical and proactive,” he said.

Here, Cheung shares his advice for future denim designers, while underscoring the importance of being a life-time student.

Embrace challenges

“Be an insatiable learner and learn to associate the discomfort of change, with opportunity and wisdom,” he said. In every problem lies an opportunity, he added, “so be attracted to challenges—there’s gold to be found in every problem, in every mistake.”

Expand your skills

Just like being strong, flexible and quick makes you resilient to physical stress, Cheung said cultivating those attributes will mentally prepare you for an ever-changing future. He urges designers to broaden their skill sets with knowledge that will help outside the confines of the design studio.

For example, learning another language like Chinese or Spanish—or even the language of finance or engineering—may add a new layer to designs. “Purposefully practice at becoming a T-shaped individual” he said. “Have broad interests as well as deep knowledge.”

Give yourself options

“Be a mental omnivore,” Cheung added. By soaking up information and challenging yourself, he said designers will give themselves more options. “Having options removes anxiety and lets you take more and better risks.”

Be a social butterfly

Cheung urges up-and-coming designers to make an effort to meet and mingle with dynamic people. “Travel as much as you can,” he said. “Read a lot and take long walks.”

Practice self-care

“Look after yourself. Eat real food, sleep well and get plenty of exercise,” Cheung said. “You’ll be a better designer as a result.”

Read more about Jonathan Cheung on the Rivet 50, an index of the most influential leaders in the blue world.