Add Levi’s to the list of brands that are celebrating International Women’s Day. The denim brand held an event Thursday in New York that included Hollywood stylist Karla Welch, actress Danielle Brooks and rising Mexican fashion entrepreneur Maria Osado in a panel discussion that was moderated by journalist Elaine Welteroth.
Before the chat, the brand screened a short film highlighting women all over the world who are taking part in their #IShapeMyWorld women’s activism initiative. Among the individuals profiled in the film were Osado, founder of GirlGaze, a diversity-focused Mexico City-based modeling agency. “I couldn’t relate. All I was seeing [were] a lot of Eurocentric features, and I was not Eurocentric,” said Osado of why she started her business. “[Mexico], as a country, we have a lot of racism and classism. For me, it was a starting point [because] if you don’t recognize it, the world won’t recognize it.”
Brooks also spoke out on diversity, particularly in Hollywood and how she landed her role on “Orange is the New Black.” “In the [role] description, it said, ‘Wear no makeup, don’t do anything to yourself; just come as you are.’ I got to come as I was for that audition, and I booked it. Jenji Kohan [a producer and writer on the series] changed my life, she helped me to realize that I’m enough for this.”
Welch recalled struggling to get non-sample-size and older Hollywood clients looks for the red carpet and how that practice has changed in the past decade. “I remember saying [to a designer], ‘You should dress this client of mine because she is one of the greatest comedians in the world, and why aren’t you making her a dress?’” said Welch. “And one year, they made her a dress. And it snowballed. I really think [the red carpet] led magazines to put women who weren’t the obvious choice on their covers.”
The stylist also spoke out about using her cachet in Hollywood to convince Levi’s to not only allow her to do a capsule collection with the brand last year but get the denim company to donate all of the proceeds to gun control nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. “I realized I had leverage, and I had power, and I could say, ‘Hey, we are going to do this, but Levi’s, will you donate all the money to Everytown?’ It was back and forth, and I said, ‘Yeah, but I’ll get all these girls to be in my campaign,’” Welch recalled during the discussion. “They said yes, and then Yoko Ono said yes and gave us a song. Then 30 of my clients were in this amazing video, and the collection sold out in 24 hours.
Levi’s will reopen the event space, Studio 525, to the public March 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. to screen the film again and offer its denim customization services in partnership with the accessories company and nonprofit Mercado Global, which benefits women-owned businesses and entrepreneurship in Latin America.