Handkerchiefs Win Levi’s Competition

A team of Berkeley undergraduates who proposed reusing denim waste, embroidery, and pocket lining fabric to make handkerchiefs won the Levi's Undergraduate Sustainability Case Competition on Nov 15.

The winning team, chosen from a pool of seven Berkeley competitors, included Leslie Chen, BS 12; Zahin Ali, BS 11 (Industrial Engineering and Operations Research); and Cecilia Xia, BA 12 (Political Economy). The team also included two students from the California College of the Arts.

The winning team's solution was easily scalable using Levi’s existing facilities and offered substantial market potential as a compleent to Levi’s existing product lines.

The Center for Responsible Business sponsored the competition jointly with CCA for the first time this year, giving students the chance to work across disciplines and focus on the intersection between business and design. Students had to produce not only a YouTube video and a five-minute presentation, but also a physical prototype of their proposed solution. View the winning team's YouTube video here.

"Getting to work with the CCA students is actually one of the key reasons we wanted to work on the case," says Linda Xu, BS/BA 12 (Bus/Econ). "It's a rare opportunity to learn from students who have an understanding of the arts to hold together our strategies and numbers."

Levi's has several initiatives toward its goal of "cradle to cradle" sustainability—from green cotton to diverting used or mutilated garments from landfills. In their solutions, students were asked to find commercial opportunities for used denim, determine the size of the potential market, and find immediate and sustainable ways to implement their ideas.