Since 2002, multi-label retailer Opening Ceremony supported the budding careers of prominent designers like Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte by stocking their progressive wares. Besides having a keen eye on featuring promising brands, its founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon also developed an in-house label which proves to be a hit among its cult following.
In a recent surprise move, Farfetch's New Guards Group (also the backer of Off White) has acquired the trademark and intellectual property of Opening Ceremony, taking over its operations and distribution. Word has it that the retailer will focus entirely on e-commerce to further develop and expand its namesake ready-to-wear line. Both Lim and Leon will continue to design as co-creative directors.
Esquire Singapore caught up with the duo prior to the acquisition, discussing from entrepreneurship to celebration.
Humberto Leon: TRAVEL INSPIRES us. That’s how we started Opening Ceremony, from our love of travel and food. The different cultures around the world influence our decision-making at Opening Ceremony. It’s important to have a global view of what’s happening in the world.
Carol Lim: BOTH OF US made an audacious decision to be entrepreneurs. The unknown worries our parents and their generation, and it’s everything they’ve raised us to avoid. They want us to have a stable job. And I think with having small businesses which both our families ran, they understand the difficulties in that, so they were very nervous.
Humberto Leon: LEAVING A LEGACY like Martell’s is about time and spending the time to story-tell and to build. Our idea is that Opening Ceremony evolves and is constantly evolving. That to me feels like a modern interpretation of creating our legacy that we can adapt to the environment.
Carol Lim: A LEGACY IS NOT something you can create. It is conceived by the people who experience our brand. It’s how you affect people, whether it’s an event you’ve attended, the first item bought, discovering a brand or content we’d created that spoke to you. We create what we feel passionate about and what’s important, the legacy comes from our community that remembers. You have to create an emotional impact that influences people.
Humberto Leon: IF WE WERE TO MAKE a collection based on Martell, we would look into the history of their cognac-making process, the raw ingredients and the natural colours. Maybe even the evolution of the colours and the ingredients too.
Carol Lim: WE ARE CONSTANTLY DEVELOPING. A lot of people are nervous about that and they like to stay in the know. But we love the unknown and I think that’s why we’ve been able to continue within the dialogue culturally because we are always doing something different.
Humberto Leon: A GOOD COLLABORATION IS ABOUT authentic storytelling. We always go with that as the starting point and we feel like we can tell the story about the two brands.
Carol Lim: OPENING CEREMONY IS INSPIRED by the Olympics. We are big sports fans and the Olympics is something that we grew up with and still love watching. Essentially, every year we’ll have an opening ceremony as we feature different countries so it also felt celebratory.
Humberto Leon: TO US, Martell also represents celebration. It’s about the clinking of glasses, celebrating life and to me that’s what Martell stands for. Also, Opening Ceremony is all about celebrating and all about positivity and making sure that we’re just constantly having fun and celebrating life.
Carol Lim: OUR IN-HOUSE LABEL STARTED because as we found ourselves buying up-and-coming designers and different brands, we realised there’s something missing. We call it Basics Plus—things that we felt should be part of your wardrobe too. The brand started right at the beginning (along with the store) with seven pieces, including our iconic diamond sweatshirt.
Humberto Leon: BEING IN THE EARLY WAVE of Asian designers in America at the forefront of fashion, we were probably seen as American designers instead. We were persistent at making sure to distinguish ourselves as being Asian Americans mainly because we are really proud of our heritage and our roots.
Carol Lim: WE CREATED a new model at that time. No one was doing a multi-label store, a line and a showroom at the same time. We had our own ecosystem and that was a huge advantage because we didn’t have to rely on anyone else. So we know what it takes to design clothes, sell them to different partners and in-store. That point of view was also radical.
Humberto Leon: FASHION IS A medium that we talk in and where we’ve built a foundation. We’ve always tried to talk about things that are more important than fashion, like culture. So, fashion is the rice on a plate of food—a foundation.
Humberto Leon: WE ARE OUR OWN harshest critics so we like to make sure we can be the best at everything. The experience has to feel real and authentic. Those are measures that everybody should use.