From left to right: Humberto Leon, Carol Lim and Esu Lee. Photo: Martell
The cool kids behind Opening Ceremony are the sort who have you feeling torn between wanting to be them, and wanting to be with them. Ever since the inception of the US-based street label in 2002, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have transformed their business from a hole-in-the-wall shop front to a booming multi-label business spanning three cities (New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo). Basing their creations off their jet-setting adventures, you could say that the dynamic duo are also one of fashion’s OG wanderlusters.
One of their most recent adventures was in Singapore – partnering with Maison Martell for the second episode of Martell Home Live: A Taste of Home. Opening Ceremony was invited on the live talk show, alongside other “audacious” personalities such as Claire Jedrek, Ghetto Gastro, Esu Lee and Arthur Bray to discuss issues on culture and gastronomy.
Lim and Leon are no strangers to collaborations, having worked with the likes of Rodarte, Martin Maison Margiela and Spike Jonze. And she reveals that the secret to happy collabs simply lies in connecting with brands and creatives on a personal level. “When it’s done like that, I think what is created will be more powerful. It has to make sense, and only then can you create something super incredible and dynamic.”
In the case of Martell, the particular episode’s focus on travel, food and “East-meets-West” was what drew Opening Ceremony in. “To be honest, we wouldn’t have done it if it didn’t feel like we could actually talk about it in a really authentic manner. So, it felt very natural to work with them,” says Lim.
During their time on our sunny island, we caught up with Carol Lim to find out what she has been up to since ending her eight-year stint as co-creative director at Kenzo in June this year, and what keeps her hustling.
What are some exciting things you’ve been up to since parting ways with Kenzo?
We’ve been super busy. We’ve always been continuing to progress and push the envelope with Opening Ceremony. So, now we’re working on a ton of different projects, it gives us more time to travel. And we’ve got a lot of different things in the works. It’s great to be able to work on projects like this that we’re passionate about.
For your S/S ’20 collection, why were you inspired by Mexico?
Every year at the Opening Ceremony, we feature a country – and it really stems from Humberto’s and my love for travel.
The whole idea of Opening Ceremony came from a trip we took to Hong Kong. From the discovery of young designers, artists and creative people on that trip, we really wanted to figure out a way to incorporate that into our concept and our job. So for us, featuring different countries every year is related to what we do.
In light of what’s been happening politically in the US, we always think about using our platform to talk about things that are important to us, but from a positive context. So, we chose to feature Mexico, and went down and met an incredible group of creative people who are designing clothing, jewellery, accessories and food – that kind of starts a dialogue on how we get inspired to design the collection. So, that was a mix of inspiration for us.
How do you pack light and still be fashionable? How did you pack for Singapore?
If you don’t have an evening event, I would just pack one pair of shoes. If you like to exercise, then obviously sneakers are a big trend at the moment. That’s going to save the space. A pro tip: carry-on only, even up till five days,. Think about clothing you can transition.
Singapore is easier because it’s warm, so you can leave the bulk out. But I think having separates – things that you can mix and match throughout your trip – is the way to go. I also like a lot of Issey Miyake so that packs down really tight. To be honest, I think it’s fun to leave room to also buy when you’re visiting a country.
So, if you’re not tied to a formal event, take the basics that you need. And find something along the way – that leaves room for you to add to your wardrobe as you go along. It doesn’t have to be high-end, luxury brands. Being in Singapore, I’m especially excited to go to Chinatown and Arab Street. Find things that feel indicative of what you can find in Singapore and incorporate that in your wardrobe.
Describe your personal style.
Easy, classic with a twist, undefinable.
But how do you remain true to your personal style while incorporating trends?
It’s really about how I feel in that particular moment or that particular stage. I am adventurous, and open to colors, prints and patterns. So often it’s really about my mood, and often I will buy things based on emotion. Even if I don’t wear it immediately, I like to pull things in. I don’t necessarily follow trends per se, but I think about things that resonate. When I go back to my wardrobe and find things that I bought years ago, I get really excited to incorporate them in my outfits.
We're going into the 'top threes'. First off, wardrobe essentials.
- A black dress – it can go from casual to dressy. When you travel very lightly, I think having a transitional dress just makes you feel put together. It’s super important.
- A pair of flat shoes that can also be dressy. My biggest concern – or pet peeve – is when you have shoes that are uncomfortable. I think any person can relate – it can completely ruin your mood and whatever you’re doing. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you can’t enjoy a night out, having a meal or shopping, because your feet are hurting. So I always have a pair of comfortable shoes that can work both for day and night.
- Jewellery – I have pieces that I wear every day. Having a piece that is very you, and that you can wear at all times, is nice to have as an accessory, and I think it helps create a sense of your style.
Places to shop.
- I like to look at First Dibs, which is generally furniture and vintage objects. It’s nice because you can see jewellery and furniture to whatever it is you’re looking for. It creates a lot of inspiration.
- I travel to Japan often so I like to shop at a lot of the Japanese brands such as Please Please, Issey Miyake or Toga. I also enjoy really good vintage stores. Japan is a really big shopping destination for me.
- I like to buy a lot of home objects. There’s a store called ‘Coming Soon’ in New York that sells a combination of different homewares. It’s nice to see their point of view and their curation.
Places to wine and dine, anywhere in the world.
- It’s interesting because many people go to Manhattan to get sushi. So, having travelled around the world and tried many different sushi, I think this place by my house is honestly top rated. It’s called Sushi Katsuei, and it’s incredible.
- Cam in Paris – I travel a lot and visit Paris often, so I’m always looking to try new things. I think this place always innovates and changes the dishes, so that it’s one of my favorite new places that I like to go to.
- I have friends that live uptown in Manhattan, so we enjoy going to the Carlyle and having a drink at the bar.
We have to ask, how do you like your Martell served?
I like mine neat, just in its pure form. Just sipping it and tasting the flavor is my preferred way. But I’m also open to see how it’s used in cocktails because I think that’s super interesting. And part of what I’m excited about while developing this relationship is to see it in different contexts.