A Look Back at Opening Ceremony’s 20 Most Notable Collaborations

From ugly sandals to partnerships with Yoko Ono and Elvis Presley Enterprises.

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Opening Ceremony was founded by California natives Carol Lim and Humberto Leon in 2002, with a goal to bring travel to the retail experience by stocking emerging designers from the U.S. and around the world. Its flagship location on Howard Street in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood quickly became a mainstay amongst local cool kids and visitors seeking access to brands like Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, Alexander Wang and more. The retail staple soon expanded, opening a second NYC outpost, along with storefronts in Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Over time, Opening Ceremony’s in-house clothing and accessories became known for their frequent and unexpected collaborations, which often introduced consumers to new takes on heritage products or even the work of emerging artists. Throughout its 18 years in business, the retailer continued to push the boundaries of high fashion and streetwear through collaborations alongside Coca-Cola, Yoko Ono, Birkenstock and even comparable Parisian boutique colette.

In light of the recent news that Opening Ceremony has been acquired by New Guards Group and will be closing down all of its physical retail locations sometime in 2020, we have compiled a list of the retailer’s 20 most notable collaborations over time. The brand is still set to continue working on its in-house line, so OC fans fret not — there will likely be more to look forward to in the future. Scroll down through the list below, then read more about what’s next for the iconic retailer.

Spike Jonze

Opening Ceremony has had a longstanding relationship with renowned director Spike Jonze, originally dating back to 2009 when the two entities teamed up to release a collection inspired by Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. Most notably, OC and Jonze reunited in 2015 to design a capsule collection directly inspired by Jonze’s Blockbuster film Her. In addition to input from Jonze, Her costume designer Casey Storm provided feedback along the way, ensuring the unisex collection would make each wearer feel as close to Joaquin Phoenix’s character as possible. That same year, Jonze and OC also released a Kodak-inspired collection featuring a range of T-shirts with bold logo detailing.

Chloë Sevigny

Leon and Lim specifically thanked Chloë Sevigny in their official acquisition announcement for good reason, as the brand has been collaborating with the actress, model and designer ever since its humble beginnings. Sevigny often created lifestyle collections for the brand, centered around wearable everyday pieces like button downs, blazers and even footwear. The designer has always had a knack for representing current times, which can be seen when comparing her unisex workwear-inspired collection in 2009 with her more streetwear-influenced collection a couple years later in 2011.

UNIQLO

In 2009, Opening Ceremony released a men’s capsule collection as part of UNIQLO’s Designer Invitation Project. The business casual styles in the range were fairly understated, however the collection further established Opening Ceremony as a brand with its finger on the pulse. Today — over 10 years later — UNIQLO has become known for its cool collaborations, which see the Japanese retailer partnering with everyone from AMBUSH to Pokémon.

KAWS & Kiehl’s

To celebrate the opening of Opening Ceremony’s Tokyo location in 2009, the brand entered a triple collaboration between themselves, renowned artist KAWS and skincare brand Kiehl’s. Packaged as a gift basket — crinkley plastic and all — the collaboration included an exclusive set of Kiehl’s products featuring playful labels designed by KAWS. The gift bag also included a poster that reads “Peace, Love, Kiehl’s” in KAWS’ signature lettering. This collaboration established Opening Ceremony as an early supporter of streetwear’s mergence with fine art and the industry’s future obsession with KAWS collaborations.

Pendleton

American heritage brand Pendleton originally tapped Opening Ceremony in 2009 to help update its product range in celebration of its 100th anniversary. The collection included Pendleton’s iconic Native American-inspired print emblazoned across a new range of items, from skirts to blazers to trousers. Opening Ceremony continued to collaborate with Pendleton for more designs (including in 2010 and 2017), each time further adding a city-edge to the brand’s rural-inspired style offerings.

Maison Martin Margiela

In 2010, Opening Ceremony had the chance to join forces with one of their favorite labels, Maison Martin Margiela. The collaboration resulted in a white Bic pen adorned with Margiela labeling and a tonal feather plume. It may seem like a simple desk accessory, but the pen symbolized a new era for Margiela, as it was the first co-branded project in the celebrated brand’s history. The brands ended up teaming up a second time in 2011 for a full womenswear collection under Margiela’s MM6 label.

colette

The past few years have signaled a shift in the independent retail landscape, including the shuttering of iconic Parisian boutique colette in 2017. Back in 2010 when both retail outposts were in their heydays, the two collaborated on a range of Paris-inspired collectables, including lighters, tote bags and T-shirts featuring various iconic French sayings like “tout va bien.” The capsule collection was limited to just a few pieces, but any partnership between two beloved stores is one to be remembered.

Rodarte

Rodarte has always been known as a womenswear brand since its inception, but during a collaboration with Opening Ceremony in 2011, the brand briefly entered the menswear scene. The Scandinavia-inspired collection marked the first time Rodarte experimented with menswear, and it did not disappoint. Clean blazers and trousers were contrasted with bold printed button downs, adding a tinge of Rodarte’s signature Bohemian twist to a very wearable range.

adidas Originals

Opening Ceremony joined forces with Nike back in 2004 for a series of artistic sneaker remixes dubbed “Souvenir;” this kicked off the retailer’s interest in footwear collaborations, which included a multitude of exclusive Keds, Tretorn and Havaiana styles, the latter of which was one of Opening Ceremony’s first hit products. OC’s longest joint effort with a major sneaker imprint was its two-year partnership with adidas Originals, which began in earnest in 2012. The first paisley-rich drop was followed by color-blocked animal prints, a quirky twist on basketball style and revamped baseball gear.

Yoko Ono

Back in 2012, Opening Ceremony teamed up with Yoko Ono to release a collection filled with risque cutouts and bold handprint placements. The pieces were centered around sheer elements and standout neon hues, perhaps predicting the resurgence of similar trends spotted during various Fall/Winter 2020 runway shows.

Elvis Presley Enterprises

Over its nearly 20-year-long history, Opening Ceremony has teamed with a host of influential creatives for collaborations. Perhaps the most unusual was when OC brought documentary and fashion photographer Jamie Hawkesworth on board to lense an editorial for the Opening Ceremony x Elvis Presley Enterprises collaboration, which launched in time for Graceland’s Elvis Week in August 2013. The collection was modeled by Memphis locals, showcasing heart-printed shirts, “Love Me Tender” jackets and T-shirts studded with an unmissable “ELVIS.”

Teva

During the relatively long reign of the “ugly” sandal, Opening Ceremony capitalized on the trend by collaborating with Teva two consecutive years in a row. In 2014, the partnership resulted in a trio of shimmering styles meant to be worn with socks, most notably two high-rise styles with ankle straps. Just a year later, the brands debuted a more subdued range of sandal options that featured simple strips as the driving theme.

Birkenstock

Though Opening Ceremony first partnered with Birkenstock in 2014 to celebrate René Magritte, its founders have had a longstanding personal relationship with the German footwear brand. “We have the original Birkenstocks with the closed toe from our Berkeley days,” Leon told the LA Times in 2014. This deep love for classic Birkenstock silhouettes inspired Opening Ceremony to create some truly out-there collaborations: the Magritte partnership was followed by more artistic shoes in 2015, glitter and animal patterns in 2018 and a bold set of neon sandals in 2019.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has no doubt experienced a spike in collaborative efforts recently, but Opening Ceremony joined forces with the beverage company in 2015 when its collaborations were still few and far between. The collaborative collection — consisting of cozy staples like sweatpants and T-shirts — was released in December right before the holidays and celebrated none other than the iconic Coca-Cola Polar Bear mascot.

Dickies

Launched in 2017, Opening Ceremony and Dickies’ ongoing partnership always centers around Dickies 1922, the longstanding American brand’s vintage-inspired collection. Ranging from bright orange carpenter shorts to leopard-printed work uniforms, OC consistently reinvented iconic Dickies designs with fashion-forward flair. The sole exception came in 2019, when Opening Ceremony united mainline Dickies and Timberland, another long-term OC partner, for a collection that celebrated the heritage inherent in each workwear brand.

Columbia

In 2017, Opening Ceremony delved into two wholly different American heritage labels: Dickies and Columbia. The Columbia partnership was a natural fit for the New York-based boutique, which had already tapped adidas Originals for hiking-indebted footwear in 2013. Each season, Opening Ceremony updated Columbia’s technical archive pieces with bold patterns — including myriad florals and OC’s preferred leopard print — and unmissable color-blocking, undercutting the seriousness of the fishing vests, cargo pants, shoulder bags and trail boots.

Vans

Opening Ceremony’s long-spanning relationship with Vans saw Leon and Lim add their own take on most of the footwear brand’s iconic silhouettes, from Slip-Ons to Sk8-His. When reimagining the Vans canvases, the designers typically focused on materials, switching up classic canvas for unexpected textures. Earlier examples include wool and exotic leather Slip-Ons, while more recent material updates range from transparent PVC Slip-Ons to satin Old Skools. When the designers did decide to opt for Vans of a canvas variety, they often went for bold prints like realistic florals or surreal faces.

Disney/Mickey Mouse

One of the most iconic moments in Opening Ceremony’s history was 2018 when the brand took over Anaheim Disneyland’s Toontown to host a runway show for its “Mickey the True Original” collection. The full clothing line was designed in celebration of the 90th anniversary of Mickey and Minnie’s first appearance in Steamboat Willie. Various Iconic images of Mickey and Minnie Mouse were deconstructed, turned into repeat patterns and enlarged across a multitude of looks, including sweaters, outerwear and pants. The collection marked the second time Opening Ceremony collaborated with Disney, as they initially developed a three-way collaboration between themselves, Vans and Disney in 2014.

Crosby Studios

As part of 2018 New York Design Week, Opening Ceremony ventured into the world of furniture design for the first time with collaborator Crosby Studios. The team created a line of monochromatic furniture in a bold royal purple hue that was very much in line with both Opening Ceremony and Crosby Studios’ playful aesthetics. The collection centered around powdered steel hand motifs, with chairs, side tables and lamps all embodying the ultimate high five.

Polo

Opening Ceremony joined the vaunted ranks of Palace and BEAMS when it introduced its own Polo Ralph Lauren collaboration in May 2019, emblazoning Polo Bears across a set of bright, beach-ready garments. The partnership was a personal point of pride for Humberto Leon, a self-described “‘Polo’ kid of the ’90s.” However, New Guards Group’s Davide De Giglio wasn’t so pleased with the muted response that the Polo collaboration garnered, telling Business of Fashion, “We need to do something to augment this” when discussing the purchase of OC.

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