The world's coolest brand has just unveiled its permanent new store in Covent Garden. Time Out goes along to meet its makers
Wednesday afternoon, and the new Opening Ceremony store in Covent Garden is packed with fashion nerds, from Vogue journalists to feverish students, all clicking away on Instagram and barely containing their excitement behind Kenzo caps and trendy-again blue rinses. Their focus is a desk tucked between rails of wacky Korean streetwear.
Seated behind it are Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, Opening Ceremony founders, and Chloë Sevigny, long-term brand collaborator and subculture queen. The scene resembles a high-fashion version of 'The X Factor'; the audience raptly observing a small panel of style deities, gathered for a discussion of just how they've managed to create one of the world's most eagerly watched, tastemaking brands.
Except while the aim of 'The X Factor' is to create something mass-market and barely avoidable, OC is focused on creating something Sevigny describes as 'very small and very precious'. 'We keep our runs small so that everything is special. We like to keep it so that when you see something, you know you have to buy it because next time you come, it will be gone,' explains Leon to a fashion student who has pleaded with him to lower prices. 'That means it's hard to keep it below a certain cost - you can't compare our runs of 100 to H&M making 300,000 of something,' he adds.
It's a novel premise in an industry propelled towards the masses - ever more so through brands like H&M and its high-end collaborations. 'We want it to be a family store, though. We're not trying to be pretentious. We try really hard to have stuff a kid can come in and buy,' says Leon.
Looking around the store the next day, I'm not sure what kind of kid that would be. The first thing I pick up is a moss green Proenza Schouler handbag: £1,500. The second is one of Chloë Sevigny's own designs from her fifth hugely successful collection for OC - a beautiful fluffy cardigan in pink leopard. It's £340. But when I talk to the (incredibly forthcoming, knowledgable and enthusiastic) sales assistant, he confirms that the store's tills have been ringing all day, with customers as colourful and varied as a new Kenzo print, a collection that since 2011 has also been designed by Leon and Lim.
'We get fashion kids who'll just buy a Kenzo cap. Some just want a cheap keyring - something from the store to take home. But our customers all know exactly what they're buying.' He's also noticed lots of Koreans who've come looking for streetwear brands like the statement-making label KYE. Each year Opening Ceremony concentrates its buying on young designers from a chosen country, and this year it's Korea, drawing lots of its young fashion fans to the store.
Opening Ceremony's first London presence was a pop-up store in July designed to introduce the city to the brand via a series of Olympic-themed ranges with names we know and love, like Adidas and Topshop. The new store is a much truer reflection of what it has established in its New York, Tokyo and LA stores - a collection of new, cutting-edge brands presented alongside OC's own in-house label, and its many collaborations with classic brands like Keds, Gitman Brothers and Pendleton.
While many brands rely on trend-prediction agencies, a team of buyers and a sideways glance at what's happening on each other's catwalks, Opening Ceremony goes on its founders' own ability to spot the next big fashion thing. If they think it's cool, it most definitely will be. 'We have these conversations,'says Lim '“Whatever happened to that brand we used to wear when we were five...?”' They specialise in resurrecting forgotten labels and sprinkling OC fashion fairy dust on them, transforming them from obsolete to cult hipster favourite by virtue of a new colour, or a kooky design flourish.
With America's clothing brand heritage already raided, the UK's own cache of forgotten labels may well be due a phone call from Leon and Lim. Having been largely responsible for the revival of Barbour
in 2004, Lim admits to having her eye on Savile Row and beyond. 'I love brands like Church's. It's only a matter of time before we go there...'
Opening Ceremony, 35 King St, WC2E 8JG. www.openingceremony.com.