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Alumni Profiles

Larry Ruff, MBA '82:
Blue Jeans International

Larry Ruff

Since James Dean and Marlon Brando made them cool in the 1950s, blue jeans have become one of the United States' most popular and emblematic exports.

Perhaps nobody understands this more than Larry Ruff, global marketing officer and senior vice president of strategy and worldwide marketing for Levi Strauss & Co., the company that created denim jeans over 150 years ago, and now offers its Levi's, Dockers, and Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. products in over 100 countries.

Ruff spends about a third of his time traveling to company offices from Belgium to Japan to India to China, as well as to stateside hubs like Los Angeles and New York.

"The travel is definitely one of the perks," he says. "I love having the chance to see all types of cultures, meet all types of people."

Occasionally these trips concern strategies for curbing the perennial problem of black market knock-offs, but usually the focus of Ruff's meetings with his colleagues is to ensure that Levi's is "presenting its products in a consistent way, but also staying locally relevant." Doing so requires Ruff and his colleagues to both keep the company's core values in mind and also "monitor the zeitgeist" all over the world in search of emerging trends and consumer priorities. Such attention has led to the growth in sales of skinny jeans, first popularized in Japan, as well as the recent development of Levi's Eco, a line of clothes made from organic cotton.

In recent years, much of Ruff's attention has been devoted to Levi's latest initiative to further the brand: the development and construction of Levi's retail stores. Over 1,400 Levi's stores are already up and running in Europe and Asia. There are about 130 stores in the United States at present, with plans to build more stores in the next three years.

"It's something we're really excited about," Ruff says. "It enables us to show the Levi's brand in its totality."

When he's not traveling the globe, Ruff works out of the company's headquarters in San Francisco and relaxes at the vacation home he recently bought in the wine country of Sonoma Valley. Though he's one of the company's highest-level executives, you wouldn't guess it if you walked past him in the hall.

Like everyone in the office, Ruff usually wears — you guessed it — Levi's jeans.

— Mark Rader, MFA '02
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