As the unveiling of the new Rolling Stones store at 9 Carnaby Street gets closer – set to open to the public this Wednesday 9 September – David Boyne, managing director of brand management and music merchandise powerhouse Bravado, tells us how this “world first” came about and what to expect.
When and how did the initial discussions take place about opening a Rolling Stones store in London?
We have been speaking with The Rolling Stones and their management team for some time about creating really meaningful projects to celebrate their incredible history, but also to grow and develop their fantastic brand still further, as they continue to inspire and engage with their fans around the world. We probably first discussed and thought about a permanent flagship store back in 2018. We looked at various venues and multiple design options. The opening of RS No 9 Carnaby on 9 September will be the culmination of countless Zoom calls and the result of many, many months of hard work.
Why have you decided to give the green light to the new store at this time – when footfall and tourism is down in Central London due to the pandemic?
It is an interesting one. Despite some retailers facing unprecedented challenges over the past six months, we firmly believe this store opening is a super positive move. We are opening an incredible store in a street rich in pop culture for the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world. So, although it goes against the current happenings, it is the perfect time to open a store and deliver such a powerful message, energising the retail landscape and music fans around the world, and it will act as a showcase for London and its rich musical history globally.
Is this the first time you’ve ever done anything as big as this at retail with anyone?
We have worked with some of the biggest retailers in the world – from Selfridges, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, H&M, Primark to Zara – and have also delivered many pop-up activations and experiences, but a standalone, flagship store? Yes, this is as big as it gets.
How would you best describe the new concept?
I think the thing that stands out for me is the overall design. It’s incredibly stylish and contemporary and will make RS No 9 Carnaby a must visit for music and fashion fans alike. Also, we really wanted to make the store experiential and there are many elements that have created a destination where fans can connect and immerse themselves in the music, style and spirit of one of the world’s most iconic and beloved bands. With RS No 9 Carnaby it really does feel like we are breaking new ground for music merchandise. Customers can also design their own T-shirts at the very cool customisation station, where they can choose from exclusive Stones graphics to make something unique.
Why did you choose Carnaby Street for the store?
Carnaby Street has a history that is deeply linked to fashion and music. From the original boutique retailers like Lord John, Lady Jane and Take Six in the 1960’s, to the eclectic mix of retailers we see today, it has led the way as one of the coolest retail spaces in the UK. Add to that the mix of iconic artists that often frequented the area in the 60’s and 70’s like The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, David Bowie, The Kinks and many others – it seemed the obvious destination for the store. However, it is not just about bringing the world to Carnaby Street, but also taking Carnaby Street to the rest of the world, which is incredibly important and has become even more so during coronavirus. With that said, ensuring Stones fans around the globe can enjoy a truly engaging journey online store has been a very important part of the process.
What are the real eye-catching elements of the new store?
Without spoiling all of the surprise elements, as we really want the fans to discover them when they visit the store, my favourite is the soundwave sculpture in the windows. It represents the opening bars of the 1966 Stones classic ‘Paint It Black’ and looks amazing, particularly when it is backlit and viewed from outside the store at night. I think the soundwave is also important, because along with the incredible fashion and merchandise offering, the band’s rich music heritage is absolutely integral to the store and the sculpture is a perfect representation of this.
What eye-catching pieces are there product-wise?
I think the one garment that will undoubtedly catch the eye will be the leather jacket. It’s sure to be an iconic piece and it exemplifies the grit and glamour of The Rolling Stones. I am really excited by the ‘Stones Red Collection’, which features great designs inspired by our recently launched official Pantone colour. The collection includes a beautifully embroidered tongue hoodie which will look great when fully merchandised in store. All the product was designed by the talented in-house Bravado design team, referencing the iconic Stones tongue. Red has been synonymous with the band since the tongue logo was designed by John Pasche and first appeared in 1971 on the Sticky Fingers LP. A diverse collection celebrating the Rolling Stones official Pantone colour, along with exclusive limited-edition vinyl, will launch with the store.
What T-shirts do you expect to get the biggest reaction?
Three T-shirts come to mind. Firstly, from our ‘Classic Core Collection’ is the 1972 World Tour design which is one of our historical best sellers. The second shirt is part of our ‘Pantone Red Collection’ and features the timeless classic Rolling Stones tongue logo. However, putting it on the ‘Stones Red’ T-shirt gives it a new, cotemporary feel. The third, and my favourite, is from our ‘Carnaby Core Collection,’ which features our new No 9 design – a fusion of the number 9, as the store is No 9, Carnaby Street, and the Stones tongue. Cool, current and I am sure it will be a best seller.
What collaborations on products will be available in store?
The store offer will include exclusive and contemporary collaboration pieces for all, including fashion, accessories and lifestyle products. Special glassware has been developed with Baccarat, engraved with the Rolling Stones tongue. The store will also feature chairs and scarves from The Soloist, and raincoats and hats from premium Swedish raincoat brand Stutterheim.
Will the store be used to promote future Stones single and album releases? If so, what initially?
Definitely. As a start, the band released the remastered ‘Goats Head Soup’ album on 4 September, and we will be selling exclusive and limited ‘Stones Red’ vinyl in the store. Looking further ahead, the band’s continuing album and single releases will be at the heart of the shop’s pulse, and highly respected British audio brand Bowers & Wilkins speakers will play tracks throughout the space.
What is the background of Bravado and the UK arm?
Bravado first began trading over 40 years ago, predominantly providing services to bands for their live touring activity. In recent years, the company has evolved rapidly to serve a broad range of music, entertainment and brand clients across creative projects, licensing and retail partnerships.
How would you best describe Bravado and what you do as a business?
We have grown and expanded dramatically since being bought by Universal Music Group, the world leader in music-based entertainment in 2007. These unique capabilities make us the leading provider of music merchandise and brand management services. We have an incredible roster of artists and brands signed directly to Bravado, and we exist at the crossroads of music and fashion, helping those artists to bring their creative vision to life, by helping to deliver innovative product across four key channels of distribution – live, retail, licensing and e-commerce. Outside of music, we also work with some of the world’s most dynamic and creative brands to license their properties and products worldwide and with Bravado teams based in over 40 counties, we are a truly global business.
How long have you been working for Bravado and what would you say have been your greatest achievements?
I have just completed 10 years at Bravado. Prior to joining, I spent 25 years in the fashion industry at brands including Timberland and French Connection and most recently, I was MD at Ben Sherman. I love my role at Bravado and the fusion of music and fashion – which have been interwoven in terms of style and trends for most of the last century. The projects that we are able to create, innovate and deliver on also excite me and, because of the depth of our artist roster, every day brings different opportunities – it really is incredibly varied. Our greatest achievement? There have been many. This would have to include some of the fantastic pop-up stores and fan experiences that we have delivered in recent years for the likes of Billie Eilish, Guns ’n’ Roses, Yungblud and Kanye West. In addition, we have launched ground-breaking music-related projects with some of the world’s greatest retailers including Selfridges and Colette in Paris, and I think The Rolling Stones store launch will be right up there. It is an incredible opportunity to deliver one of the world’s most iconic music brands to fans around the world, in a dynamic retail space in London.