Since launching in 2002, Opening Ceremony has become known for championing emerging and established designers from across the globe, from L.A.'s Rodarte and NYC's Alexander Wang to Paris' Kenzo and more recently, Mexico's Liberal Youth Ministry and Baby Angel. Sadly, international fashion lovers will need to find a new source for discovering cool talents as OC co-founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have announced that they're closing all of the conceptual retailer's brick-and-mortar locations, including in West Hollywood, this year.
In an email blast and series of Instagram posts this morning, the duo penned a personal letter explaining their decision to shutter all four of their stores "sometime in 2020." But that doesn't mean that OC is gone for good. Following the brand's new partnership with Farfetch-owned New Guards Group, the company will be "stepping back from multi-brand retail [and] focus on growing Opening Ceremony collection and brand."
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Dear Opening Ceremony Family, We welcomed our first customers into Opening Ceremony at 35 Howard Street on Sept 1, 2002, a year after downtown New York was changed forever by the destruction of the World Trade Center. We wanted to send a message of love to New York with our company and our big idea to change the way a retail store had been done before. Our dream to connect people from all over the world with positivity, to create a vibrant and inclusive community through self-expression is embodied in the name Opening Ceremony and the idea from where it came, the Olympics. When we began, we took our modest savings and asked our friends to sell their clothes at our store in an area of Soho that had not yet been developed. Brilliant young designers like United Bamboo, Benjamin Cho, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Rodarte and AsFour were juxtaposed with designers from Hong Kong and Brazil who had never sold before in the US. We also made our own first pieces to sell, a diamond sweatshirt at first, which, by wearing it, became a shorthand for "I shopped at Opening Ceremony". The store became a hangout and a meeting place for so many different visitors and locals who came by to find out what was happening in New York, because you could always get the scoop when you shopped. Opening Ceremony has expanded and evolved in countless ways since those first years in business. We've grown our own collection, starting from the platform of our first store, into a global Opening Ceremony brand for which we've held some of the most ambitious experiential fashion shows imaginable. At the same time, Opening Ceremony stores have been home to remarkable staff, customers and creative people where the wildest experiments in retail have taken place. Our stores in New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo have connected people from around world together and brought so much joy into our lives and to the lives of those who have come through our doors.
New Guards Group recently acquired Opening Ceremony's intellectual property and trademark, according to Women's Wear Daily. The Italian luxury fashion production and distribution holding company is also a backer of streetwear brands Off-White and Palm Angels.
Leon and Lim continue: "We know our decision may surprise you and it may be interpreted in many different ways. Ultimately, in this time of immense change in the way people shop, we still believe in the power of passionate and unique retail. But we also believe in the necessity for change, reflection, and an opportunity to refresh. This is a moment of transition for Opening Ceremony and, together with our new partners, we are taking the chance to step back and evaluate the future of our Opening Ceremony retail experience. We are stepping back from multi-brand retail, for a moment, so we can come back with an experience that is just as inspiring, filled with love, and relevant for the years ahead as Opening Ceremony has been."
Inspired by the Olympics by featuring a rising label from a different country every year, OC's California-raised founders opened their first store in New York in 2002, followed by the L.A. outpost in April 2007. The boutique transformed the 1946-built building — previously Charlie Chaplin's dance studio — into a two-story haven featuring a shop-in-shop layout, while the charming "clapboard cabin" next door housed bags, footwear, jewelry, and other accessories.
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This is why it's incredibly emotional for us to announce today that we will be closing our Opening Ceremony retail locations sometime in 2020. We've made a decision to focus on growing Opening Ceremony collection and brand with our new partners, New Guards Group, and expand the designs of Opening Ceremony. Our brand takes the beautiful spirit of experimentation, fun and collaboration embodied in our stores and imbues this energy into the clothing we make. We know our decision may surprise you and it may be interpreted in many different ways. Ultimately, in this time of immense change in the way that people shop, we still believe in the power of passionate and unique retail. But we also believe in the necessity for change, reflection and an opportunity to refresh. This is a moment of transition for Opening Ceremony and, together with our new partners, we are taking the chance to step back and evaluate the future of our Opening Ceremony retail experience. We are stepping back from multi-brand retail, for a moment, so we can come back with an experience that is just as inspiring, filled with love and relevant for the years ahead as Opening Ceremony has been.
The news calls to mind recent retail closings, including Barneys New York's bankruptcy filing and ongoing liquidation sales, L.A.-based Forever 21's bankruptcy and store closures, Topshop's U.S. shutterings, and L.A. retail pioneer Ron Robinson's own decision close his boutiques to focus on his beauty and home fragrance business, Apothia.
Read the duo's letter in its entirety in the Instagram embeds above and below.
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We are immensely proud of the experience we created through each of our stores. Each one has been a fearless testing ground for ideas and a place for the community to come together, not only to shop, but to discover. We explored the planet for the underrepresented, the outlandish and the utterly unique, in order to surprise our customers day after day. Hundreds upon hundreds of designers have called our stores home for their very first collections and it's amazing how each store took on a life of its own. With our constant desire to reinvent, we will return to creating stores, but with a different mindset and perspective in order to wow people who are self-proclaimed shop-til-we-drops like us. Most importantly, this is a thank you letter. As children of immigrants who grew up in the suburbs, looking through magazines to learn about what was happening in fashion and culture, we feel incredibly lucky to have been able to even start this company. It is a thank you to you and to everyone who has stepped foot in our stores, offices, fashion shows, parties and homemade dinners by Wendy Leon. We thank our friends, family and our collaborators who brought their genius to Opening Ceremony (Chloe, Spike, Solange, Sasha, Robyn, and hundreds more). Our deepest thanks goes to our dedicated employees, without whom Opening Ceremony would not have the humanity, kindness and spirit of friendship that it is known for. Love, Carol and Humberto
Main photo: Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony, 451 North La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, 90048