It’s been a rough couple of months for the New York retail landscape. High-end retailers of the likes of Henri Bendel and Barney’s have succumbed to the pressures of a fast-evolving and cutthroat industry. And now, Opening Ceremony, the Soho-born brand and Chloë Sevigny-approved store that served as an emblem of downtown cool, joins the growing list of retailers shutting down their brick and mortar stores. Sometime this year, OC’s flagship stores in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and New York will shut down, leaving behind a constellation of broken hearts and hopeless cool-seekers.
OC’s founders, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, announced the news last week via a Instagram, thanking their followers and supporters for their loyalty and celebrating the brand’s evolution since its Howard Street store opened its doors in 2002. Opening Ceremony has singlehandedly redefined consumers’ relationship to clothing, from their exclusive, one-off collaborations to inclusive campaigns like 2019’s Year of Mexico, in which the store highlighted Mexican and Mexican-American brands like Barragán, Equihua, and Le Jesus. Although the announcement from Lim and Leon does hint at a future for the OC brand, it goes without saying that the vacant stores will leave an empty void in the New York fashion community. We asked several fashion-adjacent New York personas, from a former store manager to the comedian Bowen Yang, to give their eulogies for the soon-to-be-extinct stores. Now, we just wait for the blow-out sale.
Writer, Stylist, and Publicist
“One of my first designer purchases was actually at Opening Ceremony. I felt like a hip male Gen-Z Carrie Bradshaw. Everything was telling me “no,” but next thing you know my card was swiped and I left the store with a trendy shopping bag in hand. This continued to happen for two more years. I definitely will miss the rush of excitement; my wallet, not so much.”
Comedian, Interview Spoken Columnist
“As someone who started making money in the past year, I started shopping at Opening Ceremony. There’s not a lot of concept stores in Manhattan. Totokaelo, the big Fashion Avenue shops. We’re not a place where people go to buy big pants. We’re not Tokyo. E-tail is ending retail. There weren’t enough people who wanted to pay $2,000 for a weird top. Opening Ceremony was maybe the last gasp of a certain downtown coolness that was cool because it was inaccessible, but they can’t sell exclusivity anymore. The reality is, you want a top that everyone recognizes, not a top that no one else has.”
“I had a couple of amazing experiences at Opening Ceremony since I first visited their Soho store, so I’ll just tell you my top 3. The first was when I saw Rodarte in the flesh for the first time. I remember seeing their embroidered tights and thinking they were the most beautiful tights I had ever seen. They were couture to me. The second was in 2014 when I moved to New York. OC was one of the only places that called me in for an interview. I didn’t get the job, but I have a very special place in my heart for all the people that were welcoming when I moved here. Last but not least, their 2019 Year of Mexico party in their Soho store. They had a REAL Mexican party! Plus, I know and love a lot of the designers they curated for that particular project. I love them more for being supportive of talented people whom others don’t dare to give a chance. OC forever amigos!
PS.: The sample sales will be missed.”
“I came to New York in 2008 not knowing a thing about fashion, but even back then I knew Opening Ceremony was this beautiful, welcoming beacon on the shores of taste, shooting up gorgeous flares for us wayward souls at sea. The stores were there to give anyone a crash course on what was most exciting in fashion, and I’d walk in on lunch breaks or in-between classes to push through the racks and get my education on Adam Selman, Bode, Dries van Noten, Eytys, Anna Sui, and many more labels I came to love through OC. I’d leave feeling uncool but inspired, and through all my visits I can chart the different phases of my New York life: from window shopping in college to attending their collab with Bubble_T to meeting Ali Wong for the first time at her book signing there. It will forever be my favorite retail experience, and I know that Humberto and Carol will keep making wonderful things for us as we sail up the docks to meet them.”
Founder and CEO, DNA Magazine
“The first time I went to New York when I was studying advertising in 2002, one of my benchmarks of what was going on in fashion was this new store called Opening Ceremony. It was one of the first emotional experiences that meant that everything was happening in one place. It was the curatorship of brands, the feeling of hope in a new era for the industry, and what fashion really represented for me: the mecca of young culture in an avant-garde space. It definitely marked the beginning of the celebration of fashion individualism by breaking department store schemes and giving stores a unique personality, which consumers who understand fashion as art and culture will always appreciate. OC’s closure represents the change and evolution of consumption; it is nostalgic but I think it also opens a new world of opportunities and inspires new beginnings. They did change retail, from a creative direction point of view, and inspired stores around the world—AKA, changed the fashion shopping experience forever.”
AUSTIN D. JONES
“My first Opening Ceremony purchase was a T by Alexander Wang sweatshirt. Black, of course. I was visiting the city from Dallas and carried my sweatshirt back to the countryside with me, confident that nobody else in town would have what I had. That’s what Opening Ceremony was: a stamp of approval. I didn’t just buy a black sweatshirt, I bought THE black sweatshirt, anointed by the team on Howard St. Over the years my style has changed, but one constant is that OC has always surprised me. The store has a way of presenting its customers with ideas that bewilder and enchant. A lime green zebra print shirt—a must-have! A sleeveless half-zip ribbed turtleneck sweater? Why not!? I wonder where New Yorkers (and visiting Texans) will go now? Where will we fall in love with the things we never knew we needed? ”
Manager, Community Development at CFDA, Former Opening Ceremony Store Manager
“What I remember most about Opening Ceremony was that it was both a destination and haven for creatives, fashion professionals, dreamers, and us kids breaking through. It was the intersection of creativity, culture, and community. OC was progressive, diverse, and inclusive before the industry-at-large realized that inclusivity was crucial and necessary because it was part of its identity and ethos. That is something Carol and Humberto, and the team kept integral to both the store and the company. Its uniqueness was organic and inherent in its DNA. I’ll always remember the incredible creatives who would come in on a regular basis who would come to befriend, work alongside, and support—stylist pulls with greats like Mel Ottenberg, Jason Rembert, Marni Senofonte, Jahleel Weaver; designers pop-ups and clinics (product knowledge sessions) with design superstars like Telfar Clemens, Raul Lopez, Shayne Oliver, Beckett and Piotrek of AREA, Adam Selman; and special visits from musicians like Kelela, Robyn, Erykah Badu, Ms. Lauryn Hill. OC created this environment, a multiverse really, of culture that cannot be replicated. We alumni are all thankful for that, and it was honor to be part of it. OC had a transformational impact on my career and helped lead me to the CFDA, where so many of those relationships with the fashion community continued.”
Market Assistant, Interview