The Opening Ceremony Soho store at 35 Howard Street; Map data © 2020 Google
The close of the last decade also saw the demise of a few retail icons that have made New York City dear to every fashionista’s heart. If Barneys was the cutting-edge couture go-to for a well-heeled international set, Soho’s Opening Ceremony was the chic street-style crossover hit of the early 21st century. The brand, whose stores include the Howard Street flagship and an Ace Hotel outpost as well as stores in Los Angeles, London and Tokyo–announced Tuesday that it would be shutting down its retail stores this year after being acquired by the New Guards Group, a streetwear conglomerate in turn owned by online fashion platform Farfetch, The Cut reports.
Founded in 2002 at 35 Howard Street by young fashion industry veterans Humberto Leon and Carol Lim after a trip to Hong Kong opened their eyes to what the millennial Big Apple was missing, the store quickly became a label and a brand that attracted stylish cool kids of all ages. The shop carried an astonishingly well curated mix of cutting-edge designers like Acne, Dries Van Noten and Proenza Schouler as well as up-and-comers like Eckhaus Latta and an always-changing host of lesser-knowns. An eclectic shoe selection included popular sneaker brands like Converse as well as high-end designer offerings.
The brand’s own label–sold in the boutique as well as stores like Barneys–made a mark of its own on the international fashion scene. Opening Ceremony also became known for frequent collaborations with like minded style icons from Rodarte and Chloe Sevigny to Topshop and Vans and popular culture beacons from Spike Jonze to The Muppets.
With their reputation for innovation and a keen eye, Leon and Lim were tapped to be creative directors at iconic fashion house Kenzo (owned by the LVMH luxury megabrand) in 2011, which they helmed successfully until 2019, when they left the position ostensibly to focus on the Opening Ceremony retail stores. The Howard Street shop, surrounded now by the rarified studios of Jil Sander, Rick Owens and Roman and Williams, never ceased to be a colorful salon for fashion-seekers with interiors on several floors that vibrated with creativity and excitement.
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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.
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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.
Fast fashion chains like Zara whisk looks from runways and streets to every local mall, and platforms like Garmentory and Farfetch have made unique boutiques–Opening Ceremony included–global in size and as close as the keyboard. Though the brand’s founders say they 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,” they acknowledge that “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.”
As surrounding Soho storefronts stand empty and iconic stores from Topshop to Barneys close their doors, can one of the the world’s most noted style capitals sustain a shoppers’ retreat into online satisfaction and a fast fashion fix? There’s no indication that the desire for an IRL display of what’s cool and new will ever really go away; but it is indeed a changing landscape, with designers, retailers and creative curators busily trying to figure out what comes next.
According to Fashionista, New Guards has acquired Opening Ceremony’s trademark and IP and intend to take over production of its in-house line, which will be distributed online and remain the realm of Lim and Leon. In the meantime, fashion fans are truly saddened by the loss of a bright star on the downtown shopping circuit; its colorful displays and unique fellow shoppers will be missed.
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- Barneys’ Madison Avenue flagship to stay open as a temporary pop-up
Neighborhoods : Soho