Lee is an American brand of denim jeans, first produced in 1889 in Salina, Kansas. The company is owned by VF Corporation, the largest apparel company in the world. Its headquarters is currently in Merriam, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri. The company states that they are an international retailer and manufacturer of casual wear and work wear and that they have more than 400 employees in the United States. In Australasia, the brand is owned by Pacific Brands since 2007, after it was acquired from Yakka.


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The company was formed in 1889 by Henry David Lee as the Lee Mercantile Company at Salina, Kansas producing dungarees and jackets. The growth of Lee was prompted by the introduction of the Union-All work jumpsuit in 1913 and their first overall in 1920. Later in the 1920s Lee introduced a zipper fly and continued to expand. Around this time, the first children's overall line was sold. In 1928 H.D. Lee, founder and president of The H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, died of complications following a heart attack. During the 1930s and 1940s the company became the leading manufacturer of work clothes in the US. In 1944, the Lazy "S" became the official Lee back pocket. A flood wiped out Lee's Kansas City distribution center. It ruined the entire stock of merchandise, except the Buddy Lee dolls, which floated. In 1954, Lee expanded into casual wear. During the 1960s the company expanded to 81 countries and in 1969 was acquired by VF Corporation, becoming a brand. Lee aired its first television advertisement, which promoted Lee western wear. In the 1970s Lee shifted its focus from the workwear business and began catering to fashion cycles. Lee created an all-new fit for women under the Ms. Lee label. A youth wear line for boys and girls was introduced. In 1996, the company launched Lee National Denim Day as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Working with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Lee National Denim Day has raised over $75 million to help fund breast cancer research programs. In 2014 the brand was relaunched in Paris via the Citadium Paris store.


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In 1981, 240 factory workers in Greenock, Scotland, staged a sit-in in protest against plans to move the factory to Northern Ireland. What was planned as a one-night protest continued for 7 months. As of 2005, Lee Jeans have been manufactured by Arvind Mills in a number of small factories in Chamarajanagar, India. 60,000 workers produce 5,000 pairs of jeans a day.


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Within the USA, the company spends more than $40 million per year on advertising. In 2009, Olson was appointed as the lead interactive agency for the American brand and redesigned their website. Barkley Inc. had previously handled interactive advertising for the brand. Arnold Worldwide continues to provide offline advertising services for the brand.


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Further reading

Lee | TheBestFashionBlog.com
  • Rodengen, Jeffrey L. (1998). The Legend of VF Corporation. Write Stuff Enterprises, Inc. ISBN 0945903383. 
  • Marsh, Graham; Trynka, Paul (2002). Demim: From Cowboys to Catwalks; A Visual History of the World's Most Legendary Fabric. Aurum Press. ISBN 1-85410-791-7. 

External links

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  • Lee Jeans
  • Lee Jeans Australia
  • Lee National Denim Day

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