Like Colette in Paris and The Corner in Berlin, Opening Ceremony is one of those rare retail emporiums that do far more than just sell wares – they contribute to, and help define, the cultural zeitgeist of the city in which they are located. Founded in 2002 by friends Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the idea for the shop developed from their collective desire to create a retail environment in downtown New York where they could share their passion for fashion, travel, art and culture. Although Manhattan is hardly an easy place to launch a new concept, soon after its unveiling Opening Ceremony quickly emerged as a cultural authority in the New York scene. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the store’s beginnings in a modest space on Howard Street in SoHo, Rizzoli has feted the brand with the coffee table book treatment. This enormous, 350-page hardcover is a true testament to the diversity and importance of Opening Ceremony’s activities over the last decade that transcend the mere economics of selling or even designing clothes.
With personal snapshots, hand-written correspondence and even a reproduction of Humberto’s student ID at Berkeley, Opening Ceremony is as much a personal history of the brand’s founders as it is an account of the store’s rise to pop culture phenomenon. Organized chronologically beginning in the early years when Opening Ceremony was just a concept and continuing with chapters devoted to each year to present, the book presents an extremely thorough account of the company’s development. Each section starts with an interview from the period that sheds light on Opening Ceremony’s activities at the time and provides context for the images that follow. More than just a document of its fashion endeavours and designer collaborations, the publication details Opening Ceremony’s equally impressive efforts in the realms of brand development, store and website design, magazine production and even the conceptualization of their office spaces. What emerges is a sense of the creativity and vision that drives all of Opening Ceremony’s activities and that they put as much care into the display and presentation of their products as they do into their design and selection.
Opening Ceremony is well known for its collaborations with the best and the brightest of the fashion, art and film worlds – and for recognizing emerging talent long before they’ve hit the mainstream – and these relationships and joint ventures receive significant treatment in the book. Working with a diverse group of artists and designers such as Aurel Schmidt, Terence Koh and M.I.A. and established brands like Levi’s, Repetto and Betsey Johnson, Opening Ceremony has made a name for itself with these unique and innovative collaborative projects and each is detailed with descriptions and extensive photos. And there is a touch of celebrity thrown in for good measure; quotes from the likes of Michael Stipe, Erin Wasson, Jason Schwartzman and Stefano Tonchi firmly establish Opening Ceremony’s cultural relevance. The zine inserts by filmmaker Spike Jonze and actress and Opening Ceremony collaborator Chloë Sevigny, not to mention the sticker sheet, are unexpected treats and mimic the eclectic and experimental nature of the store itself.
Conceived by Opening Ceremony’s in-house art director Su Barber, the book’s design mirrors the exuberance and playfulness that has become the store’s signature; the cover is outfitted with green stripes and a clear plastic overlay adorned with stickers. The pages are tipped with a striped rainbow bar and many of the pages feature coloured or patterned backgrounds. Modernist grid this is not – the page layouts differ dramatically from one section to the next and range from infographics to photo spreads to typographic dividers. While we generally gravitate towards a more minimalist design aesthetic, we couldn’t help but be charmed by the enthusiasm and energy of the book design which captures the spirit of the brand itself. The book is a joy to hold and flip through and just like Opening Ceremony itself is refreshingly unique.