Mick Jagger may be best known as the front man for the Rolling Stones. But before that, he was a student at the London School of Economics—and he knows a promising project opportunity when he sees it, even in the middle of a global pandemic. Adding to a long list of commercial endeavors, he and his bandmates have introduced RS No. 9 Carnaby Street. With a stop-shoppers-in-their-tracks look by GH+A Design Studios, it’s filled with clothing, artwork and other merch, almost all emblazoned with the band’s signature tongue-and-lips logo.
Billed as the first permanent retail space by a musical act, the project was a collaboration between the band and Bravado, the merchandise and brand management arm of Universal Music Group.
“With this innovative partnership, the Rolling Stones add yet another cultural touchpoint to their rich legacy,” said Mat Vlasic, former Bravado CEO. “RS No. 9 Carnaby is the result of years of planning and decades of building one of the world's most recognized brands. It creates 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.”
Part of London’s legendary Carnaby Street shopping district, the boutique is built to wow, with 3D-printed red tongue showpieces in the windows, five huge screens looping exclusive archival footage of the band and glass floors graffitied with their song lyrics. The team also collaborated with the Pantone Color Institute, with reps visiting the Stones’ U.K. archive to read the exact components of the red used in first official usage of the tongue logo on the inner sleeve of “Sticky Fingers.” And so the Stones Red shade was born—now featured all over the store and in its own line of merch.
It’s a bold move even for the Stones. With global retail sales expected to dip by more than 5 percent this year due to the pandemic, the team moved beyond conventional brick-and-mortar, adding a dedicated RS No. 9 Carnaby hub to the band’s existing online shop, complete with an interactive 360-degree feature that lets shoppers move around the London boutique and score digital-only options, like a Chateau Baccarat crystal decanter. “We had to pivot our strategy a bit and there’s a much heavier online component,” Vlasic, told Rolling Stone.
The pandemic did delay construction and stalled the opening by a couple months. But make no mistake, unlike last year’s pop-up shop in the United States, the London outpost is built for the long haul and will follow the best practices of traditional retailers, with plenty of buffer in the schedule for new product design. Vlasic told the magazine building out a longer timeframe allows the team “to be much more creative … and not be confined by ‘Oh you can’t do this because you don’t have the time.”