Only a day after New Guards Group (NGG)’s purchase of Opening Ceremony was announced, the retailer took to social media and its email list to announce the closure of all retail stores “sometime in 2020.” This marks a transition for co-founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who will instead focus on the Opening Ceremony clothing line.
Founded in 2002, Opening Ceremony quickly became a launching pad for emerging designers like Alexander Wang and Rodarte, eventually becoming a recognized tastemaker in the industry, demonstrating a flair for picking up buzzy brands before they hit the mainstream. Opening Ceremony has developed a series of well-regarded collaborations, that shape timely staples and famous brands to meet the retailer’s whims.
The core of Leon and Lim’s statement affirms a decision to “focus on growing [the] Opening Ceremony collection and brand with our new partners, New Guards Group, and expand the designs of Opening Ceremony.” The retailer has long produced an in-house line — complete with lookbooks, campaigns and runway shows — though one could argue that it took a back seat to Opening Ceremony’s other brands, collaborative lines and the various labels stocked at each location, which include outposts in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
After Leon and Lim left Kenzo in mid-2019, representatives noted that the duo would begin to once again focus primarily on Opening Ceremony, which may have foreshadowed NGG’s acquisition of Opening Ceremony’s trademark and intellectual property. With the boutiques closed, Opening Ceremony’s newly-refocused product will likely roll out exclusively at Farfetch, the parent of NGG. However, this doesn’t mean that Leon and Lim are entirely done with retail; in their longer statement issued via Opening Ceremony’s email list, the duo assert that “we will return to creating stores, but with a different mindset and perspective.”
Opening Ceremony’s shift comes mere days after New Guards made another power move by taking a majority stake in AMBUSH.
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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.