Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo” tour, for his platinum “Life of Pablo” album, begins its course through North America on Aug. 25. But even before it begins, his “Pablo” merchandise — tied to, and inspired by, the album — will have its own worldwide debut.
From Friday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 21, 21 pop-up shops across America, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, will open to hawk Mr. West’s “Pablo” collection, which includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and jackets. Mr. West announced the pop-ups on Twitter Wednesday night; store locations and opening times will be revealed on his website. Each city’s pop-up will have exclusive merchandise of its own, and will likely meet a fan base eager to receive it. Lines formed early and stayed late at Mr. West’s first three “Pablo” pop-ups, in New York, Los Angeles and Paris earlier this year.
What was once called concert merchandise has lately slipped the bounds of the traditional concert tour, riding a wave of popularity that Mr. West and his “Yeezus” merchandise helped to create. Lately other artists have been experimenting with new ways of marketing themselves and their branded merchandise, from wearing it on their own backs to selling it at Barneys New York.
Mr. West, whose ambitions are often grander than his fellow stadium-packing stars, is not only introducing his own pop-up shops, as he and others have before; he is speckling the globe with them, in one weekend-long swoop. Because the stores — in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Houston, Berlin, London, Singapore, Sydney and Cape Town, to name only some of the locations — are staggered across time zones, Mr. West’s merchandise will effectively be on sale somewhere on the globe 24 hours a day. (Lest they seem too separate from Mr. West’s music, the pop-ups will also have sound systems provided by Sonos, all playing “The Life of Pablo.”)
Mr. West’s partners in the endeavor are Bravado, the Universal Music Group-owned merchandise company that has worked with him since his “Glow in the Dark” tour in 2008, and also produces and distributes artist merchandise for stars like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande.
The project came together quickly, said Mat Vlasic, Bravado’s chief executive, who helped to orchestrate 21 international storefronts, their stocking and their security. (Mr. West’s events tend to draw crowds.) It is the largest retail program Bravado has ever attempted, and was executed in less than two weeks. “It’s an aggressive timetable,” Mr. Vlasic said.
The Pablo merchandise, designed in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based artist Cali Thornhill DeWitt, plays off the “Pablo” album, emblazoned with some of Mr. West’s gnomic “Pablo” lyrics in gothic lettering. (Pronouncements include “No More Parties in L.A.”, “This Is a God Dream” and “I Feel Like Pablo.”) Pieces from those earlier pop-ups have already flooded the secondary market of resale sites and stores worldwide. (Quantity limits will be enforced at the pop-ups, to discourage gray marketeering.) Eventually, the collection will be sold at stops along the “Pablo Tour,” likely in evolving, site-specific permutations still to be determined.
“Considering that there’s five business days till that tour launches, yes, we’re thinking about it,” Mr. Vlasic said.
But before that, there are 21 new shops to monitor. A war room has been set up at Bravado’s New York headquarters to keep track of them all, with teams on the ground in every city and a few bleary Bravado executives ready to be dispatched.