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  • Interview with Opening Ceremony

    — By Alice on September 8, 2011

    New York–based retail phenomenon Opening Ceremony turns ten next year – though its founders, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, have known each other for much longer than that. Best friends as well as business partners, their unique vision has seen them challenge the traditional concept of retail fashion and establish themselves as the undisputed king and queen of collaboration — they count the likes of Chloë Sevigny and Spike Jonze as co-conspirators. As they prepare for the next chapter (or next ten years, at least), Alice Cavanagh put them to the test in Oyster issue 94 to find out how well they really know each other.

    Alice Cavanagh: When did you first meet Humberto?
    Carol Lim: The first time I met Humberto was at my apartment in Berkeley. I was studying and in my pyjamas, and he convinced me to go out in them — to go dancing in San Francisco.

    Do you remember what he was wearing?
    Pendleton flannel and Levi’s 517 cords.

    Where were you the day you decided to work together?
    We were in the subway of Hong Kong, I think at the Tsim Sha Tsui subway.

    Who decided on the name Opening Ceremony?
    We decided we needed a name that would be inspiring. Our friend Shannon Han suggested Opening Ceremony after she heard about what our concept was, and we loved it.

    Who is the better dancer, you or Humberto?
    Definitely Humberto.

    OK, so now the real test begins: if Humberto were an Olympic athlete, which event would he compete in?
    He would be a figure skater, or maybe a basketball player. Either way, he would design his own uniforms.
    [Humberto’s answer: Definitely ping-pong or mud wrestling.]

    If Humberto had a soundtrack to his life, what would it be?
    The soundtrack would involve Depeche Mode doing a Robyn cover.
    [Maybe Mariah Carey’s Daydream album or Morrissey’s Viva Hate.]

    What is Humberto’s favourite kind of food?
    Chinese, especially any pork products.
    [My mom’s food is my favourite; Chinese is my absolute favourite.]

    What is Humberto’s favourite travel destination?
    [I like what Carol likes … Anywhere if there is a beach, sun, water — both ocean and pool.]

    What are some of Humberto’s best attributes?
    He is always ready to try anything — that, and he has a wicked sense of humour.
    [My karaoke skills; my ability to try almost all foods once; my love of collecting things.]

    What are some of Humberto’s worst habits?
    Maybe hitting the snooze button one too many times?
    [I don’t like making my bed.]

    If Humberto could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
    River Phoenix.
    [Madonna or Robert Mapplethorpe.]

    What is Humberto’s greatest extravagance?
    Art and books.
    [My magazine collection — so heavy.]

    What would be Humberto’s career highlight so far?
    Creating Opening Ceremony.
    [The first day of Opening Ceremony.]

    What is Humberto most afraid of?
    Rats, and maybe mice.
    [Ghosts; rats; dead mice; durian; no toilet paper left in the world.]

    What is guaranteed to make Humberto laugh?
    Me falling down in heels.


    Alice Cavanagh: When did you first meet Carol?
    Humberto Leon: I met a girl named Cynthia in my painting class and we quickly became friends. After a couple of after-class smoke breaks she invited me back to her apartment on Wheeler St in Berkeley, California. That is where I met Carol.

    Do you remember what she was wearing?
    She was probably wearing pyjama bottoms and a tank top. I think that she was sitting in the kitchen with their other roommate, Tina, who I thought Carol was tutoring, but then I found out she was actually an adult.

    Where were you the day you decided to work together?
    We had loosely talked about it during our lunch breaks, when I worked at Burberry and she worked at Bally, but more like teenagers dreaming about professions you would have in the future. It became more realistic when we travelled to Hong Kong and realised how much fun it was to travel together and shop, eat and play all day.

    Who decided on the name Opening Ceremony?
    Actually, this credit has to be given to our architect friend Shannon Han. She helped work on the layout of our store and we were struggling to come up with a name. We knew all the things that inspired us so once we said all that, she said, “What about Opening Ceremony?”

    Who is the better dancer, you or Carol?
    Depends what you consider to be better — is funny better? Then that would be me. Carol is probably longer-lasting.

    OK, so now the real test begins: if Carol were an Olympic athlete, which event would she be in?
    Definitely tennis, or swim-relay racing.
    [Carol’s answer: I would choose swimming.]

    If Carol had a soundtrack to her life, what would it be?
    Maybe the soundtrack to Dune, or the first Belle and Sebastian album.
    [Arcade Fire doing a Cocteau Twins cover.]

    What is Carol’s favourite kind of food?
    Well, for sure Korean, and if Fungus could be a country, then Fungean.
    [That is tough, but I have to go with Korean.]

    What is Carol’s favourite travel destination?
    She loves travelling to new places and learning about the culture in that place.

    What are some of Carol’s best attributes?
    Her kindness, her intellect, her honesty, her love of food, her sense of calmness and her ability to end all texts with the letter K.
    [I can be convinced to try anything, and I like to laugh.]

    What are some of Carol’s worst habits?
    She has this trick where she can predictive speak… It’s the worst for others, but for me it’s fun.
    [Making someone eat the last dumpling on a plate — I hate wasting food.]

    If Carol could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
    Anthony Bourdain.
    [Bob Marley.]

    What is Carol’s greatest extravagance?
    Her crochet and silhouette collection — it’s out of control.

    What would be Carol’s career highlight so far?
    The first day of Opening Ceremony.
    [Working with Humberto.]

    What is Carol most afraid of?
    Unexpected screams, maybe ghosts.

    What is guaranteed to make Carol laugh?
    [One of Humberto’s jokes.]


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