Sometimes a look back is the best way to move forward. In honor of Black History Month 2020, Levi’s® collaborated with artist Gianni Lee on a limited collection of three graphic tees and a pair of Levi’s® Future Finish Jeans featuring his powerful artwork. In these pieces, Gianni celebrates Black community and culture, and reflects on the Black experience in America.
Philadelphia-based Gianni Lee is a multidisciplinary visual artist whose vibrant body of work has been electrifying art lovers all over the globe. Gianni straddles the worlds of fine art and street art — categories less separate every day. His images explore the Black experience in America as well as themes of communication and technology. He has exhibited in New York and Los Angeles, and his street installations are permanently on view in Paris, London and New York.
“As a Black person in America, the layers and complexities of my history were never taught to me — only the bare minimum. I had to do the research myself. I found an abundance of culture that I never knew existed, and I just translate these things into my art.”
“My subject matter is based on an ongoing story with real characters that I created,” he says. “I decontextualize, reconstruct and regurgitate everything I see and feel onto the canvas based on concepts, motifs and issues that mirror society.
“As a Black person in America, the layers and complexities of my history were never taught to me — only the bare minimum. I had to do the research myself. I found an abundance of culture that I never knew existed, and I just translate these things into my art. When you see these skeletons around the streets [in my paintings], that’s like my own form of hieroglyphs. It’s very multilayered and it means things to me. It’s me telling my story.”
Levi’s® x Gianni Lee Graphic Panther T-Shirt
The black panther image was born out of the respect and admiration Gianni has felt all his life for the work of the Black Panther Party. It also speaks to the raw, protective beauty of the organization’s namesake animal.
Levi’s® x Gianni Lee Portrait Graphic T-Shirt
This tee features a detail from a painting Gianni created for his first solo show in Los Angeles. The portrait honors the beauty and life-giving force of Black women.
Levi’s® x Gianni Lee Blue Panther Graphic T-Shirt
Skeletons feature prominently in Gianni’s work. In this tee, a gestural skeletal line drawing is superimposed over the artist’s blue panther graphic, giving it a strong feeling of movement.
Levi’s® x Gianni Lee Future Finish 501® Jeans
For these limited jeans, Gianni created a collage of graphics and words from famous Black poets and writers. The artwork speaks to the strength, unity, and community of Black people in America and beyond. Featuring a special-edition Levi’s® x Gianni Lee Studios Patch.
The Levi’s® x Gianni Lee collection celebrates the power of using your voice and embracing your authentic self. “What I love about Levi’s®,” Gianni says, “is the timelessness of the product. You look good in them regardless of your style choice. For Levi’s® to collaborate with an up-and-coming artist like myself — it’s a way to connect with the denim, that same denim that has been worn by so many of the greats throughout time. I’m honored to be part of that history.”
In honor of this collaboration, Levi’s® is making a donation to The Great Khalid Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports music and arts in underserved communities.