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Humberto Leon: Opening Ceremony Meets Lane Crawford

In their respective markets, Opening Ceremony and Lane Crawford have both come to represent the pinnacle of fashion retail. Looking back, La…

In their respective markets, Opening Ceremony and Lane Crawford have both come to represent the pinnacle of fashion retail. Looking back, Lane Crawford has been a prominent player in Hong Kong having officially opened its first doors back in 1850. Since then, it has come to represent one of Hong Kong’s most respected retailers. An enviable roster of brands representing the most creative and groundbreaking together with some amazing locations, Lane Crawford has earned the title of one of the world’s elite retailers. On the other hand is a much younger entity in Opening Ceremony. With less than a decade under its belt, Opening Ceremony in their own regard has successfully merged retail together with designing a brand. With a well-trained eye for both classical clothing design as well as progressive and avant-garde labels, Opening Ceremony’s ability to operate in both the realm of retail and design is a testament to the efforts and vision of co-founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim. Ahead of Opening Ceremony and Lane Crawford’s official capsule launch on Thursday, we caught up with Humberto to get a bit of insight into this latest project as well as the ethos that surrounds Opening Ceremony.

The original catalyst for setting up OC was a trip to Hong Kong… After all these years, how has the city changed? 

Hong Kong is as vibrant as ever. I think that Hong Kong always has a glamorous feel about it. You watch all these amazing old movies and they always talk about trips to Hong Kong and how special they are. I can’t help but feel the same way. Plus, the shopping is incredible.

Many people have often cited Hong Kong as a great place to shop, but the real estate situation often trickles down extensively to the consumer with expensive pricing.

How should retailers view this relationship between real estate and subsequent pricing of their products?
I think that stores should open off the beaten path and develop their own communities. There are so many great side streets and buildings where businesses can open, and as a consumer, I love searching for these hidden gems. This is a great way for stores to have a lower overhead and keep prices of their goods reasonable.

As you open different stores in different markets, do you have any particular regional or cultural changes that need to be taken into consideration?

We always consider the locality of the space when we open our stores. Even within New York, opening at the Ace Hotel, we really took into consideration what was around us. When we opened Tokyo, we wanted the store to feel like our dream fantasy Tokyo store. We go with our gut and always maintain the Opening Ceremony point of view which is fun, full of discovery, and excitement.

As retailers make the transfer over to making clothing and acting as a brand, what are usually the most unforeseen difficulties?

This was built into the DNA of Opening Ceremony. We really approached this logically and grew the business at a manageable pace. I think that the financial portion of having your own label is a big burden that people don’t realize. It’s really about balancing everything and taking each day one step at a time. At the end of the day, if you think logically, everything works out in the end.

The brands stocked by Opening Ceremony are undoubtedly an eclectic range. Do you feel as though fashion these days embraces greater diversity and that few, if any, people need to stick to a particular genre?

We always talk about “occasional dressing.” We buy for the stores according to all different types of occasions. This makes our store feel eclectic but if you look through it, it makes a lot of sense. I also often react or dress according to my mood, and I like that the store speaks to different moods.

The whole notion of telling a story seems to coincide with presenting a lifestyle. Is there some truth to this? Does success for a fashion retailer mean getting people involved far beyond just clothing?

I think that it is important to know what you are buying, so in that sense the storytelling portion is important. I think the day of just buying a shirt for no reason is too easy. It is so much more interesting when you know information about what you are buying and why a brand is exciting.

How would you describe OC’s aesthetic and approach to fashion?

Fun, new, exciting and often something unexpected.

Collaborations have been an integral part of the OC brand, given the wealth of different brands you’ve been able to work with. What has been the best part of it all? Is there a certain essence or theme that is applied universally throughout everything?

These are more partnerships than collaborations. We always like every project to feel special in its own way, and we give no limitations to our partners. It is really a conversation between two people or two brands and the product becomes the answer to that conversation.

As you worked with Lane Crawford on a line, what was the goal of the range between the two parties?

We wanted to highlight the silhouettes that felt classic to Opening Ceremony and really develop a product range that would be youthful, fun and exciting for the consumer.

Anything you’d like to say or tease for the rest of 2011?

It is our 10-year anniversary next year in 2012, so let’s get ready to celebrate.

Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: David Bowles

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