Knowing where you come from allows you to go new places while remaining true to yourself. In the fashion business, the general rule of thumb is that new trumps old. However, in the late 1980s, Levi Strauss & Co. realised that there was a growing market for the many products in their vast back catalogue that pays homage to their legacy. To turn the chaotic and unsorted collection of products, documents, marketing materials and photographs that had been built up over the years into a business resource, the company hired a certain Lynn Downey, a young energetic UC Berkeley graduate with a nose for details, to run what has simply become known as “the Archives.” This summer our founder and editor-in-chief visited Lynn in the Archives to talk about her career, collecting vintage denim and the 1950’s 501ZXX. How it all began With the introduction of the Batwing logo and the “small e” red tab in the early 70s, the notion of “Big E” first appeared among collectors. Still, it wasn’t until the mid 80s, after the discontinuation of the renowned Cone Mills XX selvage denim, that the “vintage fever” really took off. Pretty soon, Lynn started receiving phone calls from people who wanted to sell their old Big E jeans. At this point, she basically didn’t have a clue “what the heck they were talking about,” as she puts it. At the time, there were a lot of guys whose entire business was buying and re-selling vintage denim. They had realised that the Japanese were travelling to the US to buy vintage denim and bring it back to Japan. But as there was a natural limit to the amount of vintage denim out there, after a certain period of time most of them went out of product and thereby business. When eBay came along…

Despite numerous assertions that it wouldn’t be possible to find any vintage denim in Amsterdam I sniffed up this pair of Redline Levi’s 501 jeans in one of the Zipper vintage stores. They were made around 1983 and I got them for the reasonable price of €25 (less than $35 or around DKK 185).

For vintage lovers, Paris is a fantastic city. I went there myself for the first time in August 2011 and found this treasure. On almost every street you’ll find vintage shops with bountiful selections and cheap prices that will make the hunt a feast. Close to the junction of Rue de Rivoli and Rue Vieille du Temple is a blandly looking second-hand shop that turned out to be a cornucopia of treasures.