A rendering of the Music is Universal pop-up shop at Bloomingdale’s.

Coinciding with the Grammy Awards returning to New York on Jan. 28, Bloomingdale’s is partnering with Universal Music Group and Bravado, its global merchandise and brand management company, to present Music is Universal, a tour-inspired retail experience. It will be unveiled on Jan. 10 at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship, SoHo and Beverly Center stores and bloomingdales.com.

Music Is Universal, a campaign in partnership with American Airlines, will feature exclusive women’s, men’s and children’s merchandise and artist collections, limited-edition product, in-store activations and a host of events throughout the month.

“Using a multifaceted approach with exclusive product, in-store experiences and surprise activations along the way, we’ve created a one-of-a-kind campaign celebrating the universal appeal of music. Given all that is happening with the music industry in New York this month, it’s important to Bloomingdale’s to be part of this cultural moment,” said Kevin Harter, Bloomingdale’s group vice president, integrated marketing. “This campaign marks the first in a larger strategy our newly created Integrated Marketing team will focus on to drive store traffic and offer continual excitement through in-store activations and newness.”

Mat Vlasic, chief executive officer of Bravado, said, “We were thinking earlier last fall that music’s biggest night was coming back to New York, who would be an iconic New York retail establishment to partner with and do something really cool? We thought Bloomingdale’s would make perfect sense, and we had already done business with them, and came up with a great program to work with them on.”

He said the program is exclusive to Bloomingdale’s, with most of the merchandise made for this partnership. “We’ve curated a bunch of the windows with a whole theme around music and music being universal and being so important to the roots of New York City,” he said. The last time the Grammys were held in New York was 2003.

Two pop-up shops will be created in each of the 59th Street, SoHo and the Beverly Center stores, featuring over 100 exclusive pieces. Among the products for women and men are concert Ts ($38), Lyric sweatshirts ($98), Alpha Industry bomber jackets ($225), and New Era snapback hats ($35). The Ts will feature such artists’ images as Amy Winehouse, Guns N’ Roses, the Sex Pistols,  Jimmy Hendrix, Tupac, Prince, Eminem and Nicki Minaj, as well as Grammy-nominated artists such as Migos. The sweatshirts include lyrics from iconic songs and the bomber jackets and New Era hats spotlight different record labels such as Def Jam, Virgin, Island, Capital, Republic and Interscope.

“We don’t just sell T-shirts, we sell emotional connections to artists and music,” said Vlasic, whose company has done collaborations with Urban Outfitters, Selfridges and Barneys New York.

Asked whether he believes Millennials and concert-going fans will head to Bloomingdale’s for this merchandise, he said: “We’ve had a lot of success with department stores and retail.  All of our retailers are telling us that our programs are outperforming the rest of the store. And maybe it’s because we change up the product offering so often, versus traditional fashion that has season. We’re moving monthly,” said Vlasic.

A look from the Music is Universal limited-edition collection.

A look from the Music Is Universal limited-edition collection.  Courtesy Photo

The 300-square-foot pop-up shops will be augmented with vinyl records, musical instruments, skull candles, Beats headphones, sunglasses, leather jackets and beauty products. The strategy is to tell the story of bringing “the concert look” to life. At the 59th Street store, for example, pop-ups will be on the Metro level for men’s and the second floor for women’s. There will also be an online shop, and some additional stores will carry the products. The shops will be up through the end of February. Further, there will be two exclusive artist-related drops of merchandise during the promotion. Windows at the 59th Street flagship will launch in conjunction with the pop-up stores on Jan. 10, which will feature merchandise from the pop-up shops.

Bloomingdale’s has partnered with an Atlanta-based artist named Cam Kirk, who’s known for taking hip hop images. His art will be displayed and for sale at the 59th Street flagship and he’ll be doing an event at the store next week where he will sign pieces. The store will also team with the Brooklyn Museum, which is having a David Bowie exhibition in March, and Bloomingdale’s will offer a preview, said Harter. The retailer plans to do some windows with David Bowie costumes and there will be opportunities to win museum passes. The retailer is also working with Va$htie, the downtown DJ/musical video director and filmmaker, who will be DJ’ing at the store. Levi’s is doing customization events in the 59th Street (Jan. 27) and SoHo (Jan. 28) stores during Grammy weekend. Customers get to choose patches to customize their denim, working with artists at the event to personalize Levi’s product on site.

Another element of the Music is Universal partnership will be a roaming tour bus-inspired truck that will be decked out and stationed at locations throughout the city in the days leading up to the Grammy Awards. The bus will sell concert Ts, bomber jackets, New Era hats — all linked to music. The goal is for the bus to be parked outside Madison Square Garden — where the Grammys will be held — on the night of the awards show.


A look from the Music is Universal limited-edition collection.

A look from the Music Is Universal limited-edition collection.  Courtesy Photo

Discussing the strategy behind the collaboration, Harter said, “As a company, we’ve always been in tune with cultural happenings in New York,” citing a partnership with the Super Bowl a few years ago. “It’s really about us bringing unique experiences to our customer that’s aligned with culture. We’ve done some musical tie-ins before. Last summer we did ‘The Defiant Ones’ with HBO that really resonated with our customers, and we partnered with Bravado on that one as well. We knew we could make this an even bigger and more robust activation.”

Harter looks to feature these events more frequently at Bloomingdale’s. “It’s a larger movement to offer unique experiences for our customer. Every couple of months, our goal is to have these different themes and activations that go back to culture. And make it a full 360 campaign,” he said.