From the iconic scenes of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause to Kurt Cobain’s ripped up thrifted pairs, Levi’s 501 jeans are undeniably an iconic piece of clothing. Created 149 years ago as an everyday uniform for workers, these now legendary denim pants are a must have for everyone whether you consider yourself fashionable or not.
To help celebrate the Levi’s 501 jeans, the brand has reached out to some of Southeast Asia’s most creative individuals to give us their take on how Levi’s 501’s made an impact in their lives on the way to becoming famous.
Artist, dancer, actress, model, influencer … Issa Pressman is a ‘Feisty Filipina’ and proud of it. Known for her kickass style, viral commercials, and refusing to bow to other people’s expectations, Issa still remembers her first pair of Levi’s.
“It was a pair of skinny jeans, I remember cutting them up to turn them into high waisted shorts when I grew older, but sadly nooo i don’t have them anymore,” says Issa.
Despite that, Levi’s have remained a major part of her wardrobe and daily style: “[They’re] versatile and at the same time classic so they fit any time or age!”
As a multi-hyphenate, creativity for Issa is all-encompassing. “Creativity is the way to express and being able to bring it to life!”
“My first pair of Levi’s was a pair of 501s. I was 17 years old and I passed them down to my nephew,” says Singapore’s premier rapper Yung Raja.
“I’ve always been obsessed with denim. Levi’s was a staple in my closet when I started experimenting with fashion in school. And that was about 10 years ago. I’d say I’ve created my own vibe with Levi’s over the years. These days I love rocking matching tops and bottoms.”
The Singaporean-Tamil songwriter is known for his use of ‘Tanglish’, a mix of Tamil and English in his raps; he was also named one of NME’s top 100 artists of 2021. Yung Raja’s distinctly avant-garde twist to classic hip-hop music is a uniquely Southeast Asian form of creativity. He even has his own fashion brand.
“To be able to translate your ideas to reality.. and find joy in it. Creativity is in all of us and it’s just a matter of what sparks us,” says Yung Raja.
“It was definitely thrifting as a teenager. I think they were cutoffs, buttoned down. I can’t exactly remember the number. No, I eventually grew out of them and sold them on eBay,” says Malaysian Sheena Liam, one of the region’s top models and a unique embroidery artist, when asked about her first pair of Levi’s 501’s.
“I’ve always been a denim girl. It’s classic. Learning to find my fit though was the real test. I do think it’s personal to everyone’s preference. But currently [I’m loving], men’s cut 501’s that are oversized and you have to take them to a tailor to take a bit in around the legs,” she says.
As an artist and model, Sheena says that creativity is in the “silly things we find ourselves doing as human beings”. “Drawing moustaches on a poster, consciously wearing mismatched socks, learning to play guitar behind your head. I think realising you can take anything and make it your own is creativity. And it will make you happy.”
Indonesian artist, embroiderer and illustrator has over 13 years of experience working in the field of visual art, she has worked with brands like Instagram, Apple Music and Adidas. Diela is known for her use of saturated colours and fantastic motifs.
“I got my first pair of Levi’s from my parents when I was still in high school.. Unfortunately I don’t have them because I outgrew them,” explains Diela.
Since she is always active as an artist, Diela still loves to wear jeans.
“I love durable and comfortable jeans and for me Levi’s has a great fit, it’s important for me to have such items in my wardrobe.”
Amata Chittasenee, better known by her YouTube name Pearypie, is quite possibly Thailand’s best known creative with millions of people following her stylish makeup tutorials. From an influencer to a top businesswoman, Pearypie also has a production company and remains super popular.
“I was given mom’s jeans when I was 17-yearsold. They are high-waisted, probably from the 80s-90s and yes, I still have them. They are still pretty badass and comfortable,” says Pearypie when asked about her first pair of Levi’s.
That first pair of jeans led to an ongoing obsession with jeans of all kinds: “During my years studying in London, everyone wore Jeans all the time, whether they were jackets or trousers. I still remember we used to try stamping coin marks at the back pockets and see who had the best Levi’s.”
“And when I moved back to Thailand, the weather was very different but it’s still easy to mix and match my clothes with Levi’s for everyday fashion. So for me, Levi’s is a part of life.”
From stamping coins in her jean’s pockets to creating top videos, Pearypie believes that creativity continues to be a part of her daily life.
“To be experimental, to learn new things all the time, to be crazy sometimes, to change from time to time, to be inspired and be inspiring. Most importantly, to give back to the community using the power of being creative.”
Discover more creative individuals in our People Section.