This is a pair of Levi's®, buttons and rivets and pockets and cuffs, and the thread that holds it together. When the road gets rough and the sky gets jumpy a...
Woe is me to the great American brand that was Levis. Levis was more than jeans. Levis was America, apple pie, hamburgers and home. Levis became exportable culture. You could go to Russia with a suitcase of jeans and come home with a pile of cash. Then Brooke Shields didn't let anything come between her and her Calvin Klein jeans. Jeans moved from working class hero to downtown vogue Sheik.
Q: How does a brand recover cool? A: You can't. Once cool leaves the building it runs and you never catch it in the same way again. Power to the marketing team at Levis. Instead of a miserable grubbing beg they broke their own mold and spoke UP to us. First they used Walt Whitman and now they channel Patti Smith.
I am a Smith fan. There is a controversy about how dare Levis channel the singer/songwriter and poet without paying her. People who say that don't really know Patti Smith. Patti wasn't going to sell her work to Levis in this lifetime. Patti was married to Robert Mapplethorpe and she huddled on cold bare floors with little to eat, drink or wear in sacrifice to her art.
That Patti is experiencing a final act uplift in interest, praise and homage is a tiny spark of HOPE in the universe of Justin Bieber (no offense meant). Her estate might sell Patti's work to Levis, but Patti's appeal could be moot by then (though I believe Smith's tone poems will have staying power).
What about the reaction that these ads are trite or hamfisted? I say that too is nonsense. These ads are expressions of the hero with a thousand faces, Joseph Campbell's famous work. Campbell believed all cultures are guided by a handful of similar myths. A hero goes on a journey, discovers enlightenment and returns to change us. These ads are expressions of an ancient well, one that never goes dry.
Here is the thing that those outraged for Patti can take to heart. Patti is being talked about more now than before the ad. Patti will be paid in renewed interest and people wanting to know what all the controversy is about. Since this is the only way to channel Levis money to Patti I am all for it. We support ART in strange ways in this country. Best to chalk this latest example up to our American inability to be seen as listening to or supporting poetry. Music is all good, but poetry is unacceptable.
What about Levis stealing Patti's style? Nonsense, the ad is as much homage as outright theft and, as Picasso said, "Great artists steal, bad artists imitate." There is no stealing from Patti. She was and is much to distinct to ever be stolen from. If these "tributes" introduce an important voice to a new generation because of wearing some denim then I raise my gloved fist into the air in support of an American brand in the hopes they recover their cool.