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Levi’s Looks to the Public for Next Big Idea

Levi’s wants to help customers get dressed.

Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) wrapped up its first hackathon of 2022 this week with of 16 teams from 13 countries, awarding first place to an idea centered around how the company can enhance its mobile app and give users more capabilities to compose their own looks in real-time.

As one of the top three winning ideas, LS&Co. said it is “eager to put more company resources behind this concept and eventually bring it to market.”

Runners-up pitched ideas for deepening Levi’s role in the metaverse, and helping consumers make environmentally conscious decisions throughout their shopping journey. Judges are rotated each year, with this year’s consisting of eight leaders in various parts of the company.

The four previous LS&Co. hackathons have led to innovations like chat bots, self-checkout and online video shopping modules that can be easily managed by creative, marketing and merchandising teams.

“Every year I’m impressed by not only the thoughtful and innovative ideas our colleagues present, but also by the immense participation and eagerness from employees to make an impact,” said Kartik Kumar, vice president of global brand and commercial technology at LS&Co.

The denim giant has been hyper-focused on using tech innovations to drive the business forward. Last summer, it launched an eight-week, fully paid machine learning bootcamp to bring AI education to employees across departments, from teams in corporate as well as employees in stores and distribution centers. The program’s first cohort included 40 employees—63 percent of whom were female—from 14 locations around the world. Now considered certified machine learning practitioners, some participants returned to their original function, while others became the newest members of the company’s strategy and AI team.

During VentureBeat’s Transform 2021 virtual conference, LS&Co.’s chief AI officer Katia Walsh stated that AI has the potential to “save fashion.” In fact, technology is partially what fueled the company’s successful navigation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The team quickly built out e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities like curbside pickup, BOPIS, and shipping directly from stores, which helped it bounce back from the initial financial hit. Looking ahead, Walsh believes that the company’s tech focus will help it become more sustainable, creative and profitable.

Though hackathons are typically reserved for a company’s tech teams, LS&Co. has approached them from a different angle in recent years, inviting participation from all of its employees regardless of role or location. As it plans its sixth, it’s looking to expand even further with input from the public.

Later this year, LS&Co. is inviting individuals around the world to participate in its “Open to All Hackathon,” where the public will be able to contribute creative ideas for driving the business forward. No previous tech or business experience is required, and everyone is welcome.

“Digital transformations must be approached from all angles,” said Harmit Singh, LS&Co. chief financial officer. “We believe opening our hackathon to the public later this year is an inclusive approach and embodies our core belief that good ideas can come from anywhere. Technology is constantly evolving, and we’re excited to add even more voices and outside thinking as we further our innovative efforts in transforming our business with a digital-first mindset.”

More details on the Open to All Hackathon and how individuals can get involved will be available later this year.

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