Opening Ceremony Reflects on 10 Years

The mushrooming conglomerate of cool is celebrating its anniversary with a line of handbags, its own magazine and a new book.

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Carol Lim and Humberto Leon

Photo By Terry Richardson

A look inside "Opening Ceremony."

Photo By Courtesy of Opening Ceremony

A resort look from the Opening Ceremony collection.

Photo By Courtesy of Opening Ceremony

Inside the London pop-up shop.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

NEW YORK — The Opening Ceremony mini empire of hipster emporiums and perpetual stream of catchy collaborations, turns 10 years old next month.

To mark the occasion, the mushrooming conglomerate of cool has launched a new line of handbags for fall ($450 to $800 retail) as well as its own magazine, called Opening Ceremony Annual. There’s also a hardcover retrospective book with Rizzoli New York, simply titled “Opening Ceremony,” available next month, mapping the company’s trajectory over the past decade.

“We wanted to capture the entrepreneurial effort and chronologically show how the store began, the choices that we made and the different partnerships we’ve created through the years,” said Humberto Leon, who founded Opening Ceremony with partner Carol Lim in 2002 with a single store on out-of-the-way Howard Street, near Chinatown, here.

RELATED STORY: Opening Ceremony Fetes London Pop-Up Store >>

Opening Ceremony now encompasses eight stores, if you count two pop-up shops in London and New York. Additionally, the Opening Ceremony collections of men’s and women’s wear are wholesaled to about 400 doors, with key accounts including Barneys New York, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Browns, Harvey Nichols, Lane Crawford, Mitsukoshi and Printemps. The collection is sold out of a multibrand showroom on Centre Street here that also represents about 15 outside labels, including Patrik Ervell, Pamela Love, N. Hoolywood, Lucio Castro and Rivieras.

“Looking back on 10 years, it seems so crazy because it seems like no time has passed. The book is an amazing chronological history for us and a celebration of all our partnerships,” said Lim.

The book has a playful quality — there are collage layouts, heart-tugging interviews with the founders’ mothers and a page of colorful Opening Ceremony stickers — but it’s also an in-depth, lavishly illustrated survey of how Leon and Lim grew a venture cobbled together with $20,000 in savings and some credit cards into a company with 200 employees. Last year, the duo were also tapped as creative directors at Kenzo, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

“I remember when I used to go to their tiny office with my own food. Now I go up there and it’s this huge machine. They have water and almonds and blueberries and you can see how the company has changed and has grown enormously,” said actress Chloë Sevigny, who has designed the Chloë Sevigny for Opening Ceremony fashion line since 2008. “I think of them as the downtown Charivari, or what Charivari used to be.”

The California-bred Leon and Lim, who met as students at the University of California, Berkeley, maintain remarkably laid-back, placid personas given the demands of running the multidimensional Opening Ceremony business, based in New York, while also overseeing Kenzo, based in Paris. “We have great support teams in both places. As long as we are organized, it’s very easy to manage,” explained Leon. “The thing is, Carol and I opened Opening Ceremony on our own. We’ve done every bit of it on our own, so we understand the business very well. We know what we need to pinpoint and attack, and what areas we need to fix and improve.”

The original 35 Howard Street store opened in September 2002. A 10,000-square-foot Los Angeles unit at 451 North La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood was added in April 2007 and an eight-floor Japan flagship in August 2009, which includes a Japanese-Italian restaurant — “think Basta Pasta,” noted Leon.

An Opening Ceremony shop in the Ace Hotel in Manhattan opened in February 2010 and in September of that year, a space at 33 Howard Street, dedicated to men’s wear, opened next to the original New York store. Earlier this spring, a second Tokyo unit opened in the Shinjuku train station, which was later expanded to a second floor. The Japan stores are operated in partnership with fashion conglomerate Onward Holdings Co.

The 3,000-square-foot London pop-up shop in Covent Garden and a complementary New York unit at 10 Greene Street were opened last month to coincide with the Olympics — which are a big deal for Opening Ceremony, given its name. In October, the London store will move a few doors down to a larger, permanent location at 35 King Street. Both pop-ups carried Olympics-themed merchandise, such as Proenza Schouler’s PS 1 bag in gleaming gold and Barton Perreira sunglasses in gold, silver or bronze.

“We take them as they come. The right store has to come our way,” said Leon of the company’s retail expansion strategy, noting the New York store remains the company’s biggest revenue generator. They declined to reveal the company’s overall revenues. “It can happen at any time but we’re not in any rush to open more stores.”

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