Carol Lim (left) and Humberto Leon (right), founders of Opening Ceremony
Image courtesy Lane Crawford
During Fashion Week in New York I had the opportunity to meet with Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, the founders of uber cool New York boutique Opening Ceremony (the interview was printed in SCMP yesterday). The half Chinese, half Peruvian Leon met Lim while studying at UC Berkley in the 1990s and they have been best friends ever since.
The self-professed shopaholics (we agreed that a love for shopping is in the Asian genes!) were inspired to open the boutique after a trip to Hong Kong where they discovered a multitude of young designers in Rise Commercial Building in Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as fun trinkets at the local markets. So they ditched their fulltime jobs and developed a fashion “Olympics” concept where they chose a country each year and promoted its best designers and products.
“Our parents couldn’t understand why we would want to leave the security of a finance job to open a boutique,” says Leon, who comes from a tight knit Asian family. “Both our parents had their own businesses when we were younger and they thought us doing our own thing was a terrible idea. Now they are going online and asking if things come in their size!”
In the past 10 years the duo have revolutionised the retail landscape while building their own successful label and online store. They also have a showroom dedicated to emerging designers in New York and are known for uncovering young talent. In fact they are credited for putting Alexander Wang on the fashion map.
“We really try to look at people from a very early stage in their careers and are open to supporting people from the beginning. We have an audience that is interested in finding those designers. We don’t have to get so caught up in whether they have press. Opening Ceremony is a place where you discover a lot of things,” says Leon.
Aside from a knack for scouting the next best thing, it’s also the tight relationship between the two that has made their business such a success. They are like yin and yang – ideal opposites that combine perfectly. Lim says they have yet to have a fight – well except over where to eat.
“We travel together, we have the same friends. We love eating, massages, and funnily enough we hate the opposite things and it works. When the fruit cup comes he loves the strawberries and berries and I don’t like melons,” she says. “Everyone thinks we are a couple and it’s the biggest misconception. We do live in the same building but in different apartments. We even share cabs to work.”
Opening Ceremony x Lane Crawford (left) and Opening Ceremony x Chloe Sevigny (right)
Images courtesy Lane Crawford
Since there is only one Opening Ceremony store in Tokyo (represented by an eight storey mini-mall), the duo have decided to bring their concept to Hong Kong and Beijing. Over the next four weeks they have kitted out Lane Crawford IFC and Seasons Place, “Opening Ceremony style.” Locals will be able to buy from their successful collaboration lines including Rodarte, Repetto, Agnes B and Chloe Sevigny. Sevigny will also be making a personal appearance at the IFC store this evening, along with Leon and Lim. They have also designed an exclusive capsule collection for Lane Crawford featuring women’s and men’s wear along with a host of limited edition products.
While there are no plans to open a boutique in China, they do hope this trip will help them discover a new wave of Chinese designers from the mainland.
“I am really excited to see a slew of Chinese designers. China is known for its manufacturing so where’s the talent? Where’s that group of names? We are curious and would eventually like to feature a year of Chinese designers but we want [designers] that are thinking outside of China. We want people that think beyond the boundaries of their city. We want to go outside the box,” says Leon.
Opening Ceremony for Lane Crawford at IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong tel: 2118 3388 and Seasons Place, 2 Jinchengfang Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, China, tel: +86 10 6622 0808.