Opening Ceremony: Humberto and Carol on going to the mattresses
Opening Ceremony may have closed down its destination boutique in Soho last spring, but the brand is very much alive and kicking, as the latest collection from its founders – Carol Lim and Humberto Leon - clearly trumpets.
Though living through a 'Continental Divide', Leon in LA, and Carol in Brooklyn, have conjured up a clever new fashion statement – part reference to found home materials (even from mattresses) – during the pandemic; part expression of their artistic collab’ with a wallpaper company.
After seven years as creative directors at Kenzo, where they enjoyed a steady learning curve, from retailers to designers, their cut, line and silhouette all show great assurance. Working 3,000 miles or more apart, their newest collection manages to combine West Coast psychedelic and downtown New York cool.
These fall-winter looks mark the second collection the duo created since Italy’s New Guards Group – owners of the license to Off/White and of Country of Milan, among other brands – acquired Opening Ceremony.
So, it’s been a busy few months for the duo, especially for Leon, who also managed to open up a family restaurant in LA, in between designing clothes for this fall.
While at Kenzo and at Opening Ceremony, the duo increasingly stretched the definition of a runway show, intersecting art movies, dance performance and theatre into their events. From the ballet stage of Lincoln Center to the brutalist modernism of a Paris college. This season, the duo only produced a look-book shot in Italy, but are clearly keen to extend the definition of a catwalk show this fall, hopefully when the global lockdown lifts.
So we caught up with the pair for a transatlantic and transcontinental zoom with Humberto and Carol to learn about all that’s new at Opening Ceremony.
Fashion Network: How are things going with your new partners New Guards?
Umberto Leon: Amazing. We think New Guards are production wizards and really know how to take care of brands. Our collections are now 100% made in Italy, which is super fun and nice.
FN: Where are you producing in Italy?
Carol Lim: Near Venice. We did manage to visit our factories in Italy quite a bit before the pandemic, but we were banned after that! Most of it is made half an hour from Venice in a gorgeous area of fine wines, which we like!
FN: How do you manage to create while living in different cities?
CL: Well, it’s been a new process in general, due to Covid. But, we have shorthand and vibe on the phone and understand each other quickly.
HL: But, in a way, it’s not that different. We have a very natural process. Lots of shipments going back and forth; seeing what fabrics are, and if and how looks work. So, it’s been pretty seamless. Plus, we had a crash course doing Kenzo on different countries, so we had our version of this before.
FN: How is your movie career going?
HL: Well… I might be in negotiations. We have always found different ways to show fashion, and never wanted to follow the classic fashion calendars or ways. We always based our shows on culture away from the catwalk. In the end, everyone will talk about clothes anyway. We made dance performances before that became a thing. This season we did do a little video to accompany the collection, but more as an insert for business and press.
CL: But we will look at experimenting again. We are not forced to have an event, that doesn’t make sense; more a humanistic approach.
FN: Where did you shoot the look-book?
HL: Actually, at the B&B Italian factory in Lombardy, who work with Mario Bellini, whose Camaleonda sofa at home inspired part of the collection.
FN: What was the inspiration of this collection?
HL: We wanted to talk about the moment we are living in. We were stuck in our homes and so used everything around us to make a collection. We took fitted sheets and draped them, but then made the result in leather with elastic. We began taking apart comforters to remake as jackets.
CL: It was about taking things and not making them look like they seem. Plus, coming out of the pandemic we wanted to have fun, as these clothes come out in September.
HL: Our key Heartwood print is from the wallpaper print company Calico, which works with people like Daniel Arsham or Snarkitecture. We have a new artistic collaboration with them. And we worked with illustrator Bráulio Amado, who creates artwork for Róisín Murphy, whom we love. He helped us make new logos coming from mattresses.
FN: When can we visit your restaurant?
HL: You can already. It opened six weeks ago. It’s called called Chifa, and located in Eagle Rock, in LA. I planned to open his place two years ago with my family. I thought I would just do the interiors and the uniforms. But when the pandemic happened I was in LA, so I ended up designing the restaurant space. In fact, the Calico Heartwood print is the wallpaper in the restaurant.
FN: What happened to your original boutique?
CL: We closed down the store in March last year, but due to Covid we didn’t get to celebrate that history.
HL: But we’ve had lots of discussion and retail will be involved in our next step. Online is obviously very important. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, when we bring back lots of our DNA.
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