August 25, 2014 at 1:00 am

Ford to unleash Mustang T-shirts

Collection honors 50th anniversary

Dearborn— Ford Motor Co. on Monday will veiled a series of high-end designer T-shirts inspired by its new 2015 Mustang.

The limited-edition shirts were designed by five artists from around the world — including Detroit’s Anna Sui — and are part of the automaker’s Mustang Unleashed collection in honor of the Mustang’s 50th anniversary. Ford made 5,000 of the shirts, which will go on sale Tuesday on designer fashion site gilt.com and will retail for $39.

“It’s a celebration of the best of design, that authentic feeling that the Mustang evokes,” said Michelle Silvestri, global design director for Team Detroit, Ford’s marketing arm.

The shirts are the latest example of the Dearborn automaker’s lucrative licensing division, which brings in $2 billion in retail sales annually by hawking the Blue Oval and its various brands on everything from T-shirts and toys to lawn chairs and coffee mugs. Ford has about 400 licensees globally and sold more than 45 million Ford-branded items in 2011, the most recent data available.

Mustang accounts for 40 percent of Ford’s total merchandise business. The brand has 300 licensees worldwide that produce thousands of items. Customers can show their pony car pride on everything from pinball machines and golf carts to Shinola watches and Puma shoes.

“It’s an opportunity to really engage with the partners that are more lifestyle-oriented,” said Kimberly Cape, Ford’s group marketing manager. “We know there’s a broader consumer base than what we have today.”

Last month, Ford partnered with OPI to produce a line of Mustang nail polish, complete with colors like “Race Red” and a white shade called “Angel with a Leadfoot.” Since its July introduction, Ford has sold 4 million bottles of the polish.

Each year, more than 1 million toy Hot Wheels Mustangs are sold.

“If you think of Mustang, it’s more than a car,” she said. “It truly has been a pop culture icon.”

By comparison, it’s been reported Major League Baseball brings in $3 billion to $4 billion annually in licensed merchandise for all 30 teams.

In May, License magazine said General Motors Co. brings in about $3.5 billion annually, and about 70 percent of its licensing revenue comes from its Chevrolet brand. Chevy has about 350 active licensees.

The magazine said Chrysler Group LLC’s licensing division brings in $1.1 billion a year.

The licensing business is rebounding in North America, where sales in North America rose for the third straight year in 2013, to $115.75 billion, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association’s survey released in June.

The Mustang 50 Year Limited Edition is being produced in two colors - Wimbledon White, like Mustang serial No. 0001, and Kona Blue.