Rolling Stone has in the past dipped its toes into e-commerce waters through collaborations with brands such as Levi Strauss & Co., but after much preparation it’s now ready to go it alone.
The iconic magazine, cofounded by Jann Wenner in the late Sixties as a music and culture publication that eventually expanded to include politics, is launching an online shop Tuesday with two limited T-shirt collections. The first has been inspired by the magazine’s covers throughout the decades, featuring T-shirts with covers of Elton John, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix. The second features Rolling Stone’s three different logos, with the original sketched by poster artist Rick Griffin in 1967. Cover collection T-shirts are priced at $48 and the logo collection shirts cost $35. There will also be logo collection hoodies available for $60.
“We’re excited to bring our iconic covers and logo to this apparel line in partnership with some incredible artists and photographers,” said Gus Wenner, president and chief operating officer of Rolling Stone.
While one might think making these T-shirts was as simple as printing any Rolling Stone cover onto them, he stressed that it’s actually been a much more complicated process since many photographers and artists own the rights. As a result, staffers spent over a year working on licensing deals with the photographers, subjects or their estates before the T-shirts could debut.
“The archives are a mixed bag of images we own and images we don’t own so we had to work with the photographers and then ultimately the artists or the subjects of the covers to clear the rights to produce these shirts and this apparel. That was a very long and intricate process and relied on our relationships with the artists and our relationships with the photographers and getting them on board with the quality of the shirts and the design and the kind of vision behind it,” Wenner explained.
“I don’t know that there’s any other magazine that has even attempted this. If you go into the Vogue shop or GQ shop you don’t see their iconic covers on the stuff that they’re making. They’re just doing little design stuff with their logo or whatever,” he added.
As for the next collections, Wenner said they would include more iconic covers from the archives, as well as recent ones. There will also be covers featuring actors, politicians and cultural movements. In addition, its apparel offering will likely grow beyond just T-shirts, while memorabilia is also in the cards.
Rolling Stone is just one of a growing number of media titles looking to diversify their revenue streams away from just advertising — a trend that has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.
Wenner said Rolling Stone’s plans for the shop began months before the pandemic, but “the fact that advertising can be affected in the way that it is is further evidence that in order to really grow as a publisher for any publishing company you really need to have a very strong brand that means something to people and that you can do other things with off the back of great content and great journalism.”
The launch of the shop comes amid reports that Wenner’s contract at the publication, which has been fully owned since January 2019 by Penske Media Corp., also parent to WWD, is due to expire. He told WWD that he would be staying on in his role.
For more, see: