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Levi’s 501 Challenge

How big of a Project Runway fan are you? Probably not as devoted as Jehan Choo, the 23-year-old San Mateo resident, who entered and won Levi’s 501 Challenge. The online contest announced during Bravo’s reality show season four, attracted more than 3,000 entries from faithful fans that created their own denim piece. The design with the most votes would then be produced and sold in October as a limited-edition item on levis.com. On Choo’s recent visit to SF to meet with the Levi’s design team, the video games illustrator by day popped by 7x7’s office to dish on his design inspiration, his entrée into the fashion world and his Project Runway obsession.


Jehan Choo’s winning Levi’s 501 Challenge design. Courtesy of Levi’s.

Q: How many times did you enter the contest?
A: Three. The first design was a trucker jacket with romantic sleeves. The second was a denim baby doll dress, which was a little cuter, not sexy. And this jacket.

Q: Why did you enter the contest?
A: For my job at EA Games, I sketch out faces and clothing for characters. So while I was watching the denim episode for the fifth time on re-runs, I checked the Levi’s web site and decided to stick two of my designs out there. People either loved or hated them. Then the night before the contest ended, I was watching the denim episode again while I was brushing my teeth, and decided to put one more out there. Something more fitting to the Levi’s customer and culture. It was five minutes to midnight before the contest closed.

Q: What was your inspiration for the winning design?
A: It was military influenced. All the designs I submitted had a nod to mod or ‘60s culture, because it’s what I’m working on at EA—the period of The Godfather.

Q: Will this experience make you want to jump from video games to fashion?
A: I went to animation school at San Jose State and focused on illustration. But I’ve always loved fashion. Designing clothes is pretty new to me, but I think it would be fun to try in the future.

Q: Who is the woman you envisioned wearing this jacket?
A: When I designed it—I know this sounds a little weird—but I thought: if I was a girl, what would I want to wear? The girl is casual, stylish and trendy. It’s something you can dress up or down.