Textiles on Carnaby Street: Inside The Rolling Stones' new flagship store

Rolling Stones Carnaby Street

Not many bands have the clout to open their own ‘retail experience’.

But that’s what The Rolling Stones have done, with the opening this morning (September 9) of their new flagship store, RS No.9 Carnaby, in the former heart of swinging London. So Music Week went along to Carnaby Street for a preview…

You suspect Mick, Keef and the ‘lads’ might not have visited Carnaby Street much since those swinging ‘60s. It’s a far cry from those glory days (or even its time as an 80s/90s punk rock gear/tourist tat mecca), but the Stones’ emporium does at least hark back to that halcyon era.

Amidst the chain shops, the Paint It Black exterior and huge model of the famous lips logo in the window helps No.9 stand out a mile. And inside, it’s just as chic – it’s spread over two floors, with the downstairs channeling the sort of ‘60s boutique vibe that might have attracted Jagger himself as a customer.

Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic means that the band will not be coming down today (when the store opens to the general public) for a glittering launch party. But, despite Covid-19 hitting retail hard and restricting footfall (Carnaby Street on our Tuesday lunchtime visit was probably the quietest I’d ever seen it since my days of late nights and early mornings at the Smash Hits office, once just over the road from No.9), Team Rolling Stones and Bravado (their Universal-owned merch company) are optimistic enough to have made the shop a permanent, rather than pop-up, institution.

Bravado’s UK MD David Boyne, here to check the final pre-launch details, pops over and points out the importance of the store being an experience, not just a shop. And there are certainly enough nice touches – from the 10 original artworks by John Pasche, creator of that famous logo, to the lyrics on the glass walkways, giant screens showing live footage, and even a special Goats Head Soup Instagram filter – to make it a worthwhile pilgrimage for any Stones fan.

But, ultimately, the success of No.9 will come down to the merch. So there is a 'bespoke T-shirt customisation station' that will print you a T-shirt made to your personal specifications inside 10 minutes. But there's also a staggering range of gear, from Rolling Stones lighters, washbags and umbrellas through to the expected Stones T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies and the less expected, but extremely extensive babywear range.

Elsewhere, a Stones ‘work vest’ will set you back £70, a denim jacket costs £140, a black rubber mac goes for £235 and Rolling Stones Baccarat crystal glassware starts at £180 a pop and goes up to £535 for a carafe.

The classic Stones Red, their very own Pantone shade, is everywhere: there’s an exclusive line of No.9 apparel that features it heavily. And, of course, the store also sells the music: the special Goats Head Soup red vinyl is only available here. Given it’s also a chart-registered store, sales could even make a crucial difference in the band’s close race for No.1 this week with Declan McKenna if fans turn up in droves.

From Exile On Main Street to textiles on Carnaby Street, it’s been a long, strange journey for the self-styled world’s greatest rock’n’roll band. But at RS No.9 Carnaby, one thing’s for sure: you can always get what you want…

* To read our 2018 Rolling Stones cover story, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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