Fashion Week Interviews

Opening Ceremony’s Carol Lim on Fast Fashion, Falling Models and Making Memories with Clothes

Opening Ceremony's Carol Lim and Humberto Leon with Solange KnowlesImage courtesy of Greg Kessler Studio

Opening Ceremony co-founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon keep very busy with their ever-evolving collaborations, accolade-worthy runway shows, creative directing of Parisian label KENZO and raising families. But long before any of this happened, the once-upon-a-time Berkeley thrift buddies cut their teeth at separate corporate gigs, then joined forces and commercial expertise to launch their revolutionary retailer and fashion line in 2001. 

We need a nap just thinking about it, especially after speaking with Lim about maintaining perspective in the fashion industry, buying like you mean it and Opening Ceremony’s multilayered approach to fashion.

New York Fashion Week Spring 2016, Opening Ceremony

The Thread: NYFW went down a couple of weeks ago, and with it, some of Opening Ceremony’s models in the most graceful falls-turned-performance-art tumbles. What inspired that direction over simply showing the clothes (which were equally jaw-dropping)?

Carol Lim: We always try to make it a memorable experience and a marker of time—a memory you can think back to. Of course, we’re super excited about our collection, but we incorporated all of these other elements too. We were inspired by dream homes and the things you pick up on your travels, so we brought in architecture. Both Humberto and I are huge fans of Frank Lloyd Wright, so we thought it would be great to partner with the foundation. There were a lot of layers to the show. 

Image at left: InDigital


One of those layers included vegetables, herbs and trees in a circular display—a real-life rendition of Wright’s cooperative vision between design and nature. Opening Ceremony donated those plants to Edible Schoolyard NYC. 

These shows are one night. They last 12 to 15 minutes, then they get broken down. But ours will continue with Edible Schoolyard. They’re a nonprofit organization that partners with public schools to develop gardens and teach young students about sustainable growing and healthy eating.

New York Fashion Week Spring 2016, Opening CeremonyImage courtesy of Greg Kessler Studio

Collaborations are built into the OC DNA. Recent ones include the handprint crisscrossed over classic Vans and sunglasses with eyewear designer Gentle Monster. Others range from ACNE Studios to Pendleton. Why take this approach?

We have always approached fashion—and, in general, all cultural things—with a very curious mind. Who are the originators? Where did this or that come from? When Opening Ceremony started, we looked to brands that we knew and loved. We went back to the source. That then brought in the idea of telling our partners’ stories as well. It’s really how we approach things.

Who are your current muses?

There is so much out there. It’s hard to choose! A lot of the inspiration we find happens in the day to day—our family, kids. Yes, there are people that we think are great cultural heroes—Chloë Sevigny, David Lynch, all these amazing musicians we’ve worked with—but honestly seeing people on the street and being aware of what’s happening in the world influences us. Like our show, we wanted it to have an element that meant something. We wanted to use it and whatever platform we have to open a conversation.

Opening Ceremony layered jacquard maxi dress

In what direction do you see fashion evolving, and how is fast fashion impacting the industry? 

It’s moving toward more sustainable and conscious practices. There is a disparity. Wanting things fast and cheap hurts the industry at large, too. We ask, “Is there a smarter way to do this?” We need to be able to address fast fashion, not embrace it. Our collections are things that people love and keep—not throw away. That’s important. You can probably go buy something like it somewhere else for cheaper, but it’s not the same. We want to create for the long term. It’s about buying smarter, buying things that bring you joy and won’t be worn once or twice before being thrown away.

Image at right courtesy of Opening Ceremony

Looking back, what was your favorite outfit from pre-OC days?

In college, I had this signature piece that I wore in several different fabrications: a long black skirt. At the time I was obsessed. I had it in wool, silk, chiffon—I just really loved that long black skirt. I still do, actually. I also had an army jacket with a faux-fur collar. That shape was a key part of my Berkeley years.

And now? What are you current wardrobe favorites?

I’ve always been into dresses and skirts, but recently I’ve been getting into pants. There’s a jumpsuit that I’m really excited about. Styled with a bralette, it’s both dressy and feminine. But I like wearing it with my favorite tee, too—it looks great! Also, the checkerboard carwash dress, which comes in top and skirt versions as well. Those are things you can work back into your wardrobe, but if you saw that shape you would know it’s Opening Ceremony. I like to get multiple uses out of things. I’m getting kids ready for school every morning. I travel a lot. I don’t have time to think, “Today I’m wearing this outfit. Tonight I’m wearing that.” But it’s still fun to add new things. It’s like a shot of energy. The collection hits on that in a lot of ways. 

—Katie Joy Blanksma

Shop: current season Opening Ceremony