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Why This Denim Brand Is An Important Leader In LGBTQ Rights

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    Photo: Courtesy of Levi's.

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    Every June, the world celebrates Pride — a fête, born out of conflict, to promote equal rights and love for all, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Last week, following an attack on the LGBTQ community in Orlando, FL, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren described Boston's annual Pride parade perfectly.

    "For me, this parade is the tangible demonstration of what happens when we turn away from darkness and division and turn toward our best selves, when we turn toward each other," she said on the Senate floor. "It shows us what this nation looks like when we are at our best: Inclusive, strong, united, optimistic — proud. It shows us what this nation looks like when we beat back hate and embrace each other." These words, of course, recall civil rights leader Harvey Milk's, who said back in the '70s, "I know we cannot live on hope alone. But without it, life is not worth living." In 1977, Milk changed the course of LGBTQ history by being one of the first openly gay men to be elected to public office in California; his career was cut short when he was assassinated less than a year after being elected.

    During his time of advocacy and reform in San Francisco's famous Castro district, Milk led initiatives that would protect not just LGBTQ rights, but improve the lives of working mothers and promote the creation of low-cost housing for families across the city. So, it's meaningful that San Francisco-based denim brand Levi's partnered with the Harvey Milk Foundation to create a collection to help spread this message of equal rights that touches all communities, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender. Last year, Levi's created a Pride collection that honored the Stonewall Riots, the historical moment that gave rise to Pride.

    Thanks to the capsule collection, you can now literally wear your pride on your sleeve (or pant-leg for that matter). The T-shirts, accessories, a jacket, and shorts all retail for under $100. "We always look to the history of significant LGBTQ events that changed minds, and this year, we absolutely wanted to honor the work of Harvey Milk," Levi's chief merchandising officer Grant Barth told us. "Since we created the collection, we always intended to use it as an avenue to support community efforts and celebrate LGBTQ history."

    Since 1983
    , Levi's has been a large-scale contributor to the fight against HIV and AIDS, donating over $60 million to organizations in over 40 countries. And it has a workplace policy that protects employees (and their legal dependents) living with HIV and AIDS.

    Brands typically get into the philanthropy game by creating one-off items to raise funds and awareness for special causes. But by working with the Harvey Milk Foundation itself, Levi's was able to go one step further and design a multi-piece range.

    "When the Levi’s brand first set out with the idea to design a Pride collection, the team believed that maybe the true meaning of Pride had been forgotten. It wasn't that we didn’t want youth of today to celebrate, but we wanted them to know the history of how we got to where we are now," Barth said. "All of the iconography is directly linked to the point in time when [Milk] was in office and doing his most important work. We worked with the local community to ensure we were true to the exact spirit that Harvey Milk embodied."

    And that legacy is carried on by the cofounders of the Milk Foundation, Anne Kronenberg, Milk's former campaign manager, and Stuart Milk, his nephew. Both will be walking in Pride parades this month, in San Francisco and London, respectively.

    Collaborations that go beyond trends are important because they show that fashion can go beyond frivolity (or function) to serve a purpose. And now more than ever, the support of the LGBTQ community by mainstream corporations is crucial. Click through the slideshow ahead to see the full collection. There's a denim jacket in there with a message that will give you all the feels.

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