blog"> clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Timeline: A Brief History of Opening Ceremony

New, 1 comment
What 35 Howard Street looked like before Opening Ceremony moved in via the OC <a href="">blog</a>
What 35 Howard Street looked like before Opening Ceremony moved in via the OC blog

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

New York Magazine's Power issue devotes significant space to Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the team behind Opening Ceremony, calling them "the new arbiters—and ambassadors—of fashion."

But while the article's point is that the two are serious contenders in the world of NYC retail, it also serves as nice reminder that at heart, they're just best friends who love fashion. Lim and Leon are so close, in fact, that they can speak as one person if they're looking each other in the eye. They live in the same building, share an office, and say they've never had a fight. So how did they become the fashion establishment's platonic power couple? We've broken Jada Yuan's profile down by date for an easy-to-digest history of the duo.

The 80s: Humberto Leon and Carol Lim grow up in suburban Los Angeles. They don't know each other yet.

1988: At 14, Leon gets hired at the Gap at his local mall.

1989: Leon gets promoted to store decorator at age 15.

1993: Lim and Leon meet as sophomores at Berkeley. According to Leon, "We bonded over her studying, me going out, me forcing her to go out, and me not studying." He's still working 40 hours a week at the Gap, by the way, and he's known among his friends for picking up amazing designer clothes on shopping trips to New York.

1995 or 1996: After graduation, Leon moves to Old Navy.

1999: At 25, Leon becomes Burberry's head of visual merchandising. Meanwhile, Lim is working at Bally after a brief period as an investment banker. They live in New York and spend all their free time hanging out.

August 2001: Lim and Leon quit their jobs in order to open a store inspired by the retail culture they saw on a trip to Hong Kong. The plan is to pit designers from other countries against American designers as a tongue-in-cheek way to spur sales. They decide to name it Opening Ceremony because they're obsessed with the Olympics.

Fall 2001: After 9/11, Lim and Leon consider scrapping the store idea. But the city has started encouraging business downtown, and they wind up finding an adviser from Pace to help them for free. Ultimately they get a loan to match the $10,000 they'd each saved.

August 2002: Opening Ceremony debuts in a former linen store on Howard Street. Lim and Leon are so overwhelmed that they hide from the first customer. Their first big hit is a brand of flip-flops called Havaianas that Lim and Leon discovered in Brazil. They wind up going back to buy more 16 times that year.

April 2004: The store hits its goal of a million dollars in retail sales, so Lim and Leon take the entire staff to Jamaica.

Fall 2005: Opening Ceremony picks the United Kingdom as its country of the year and becomes the first store to carry Topshop outside of England.

April 2007: Opening Ceremony launches an LA location in Charlie Chaplin's former dance studio.

Spring 2008: The collaboration with Chloë Sevigny appears. Somehow, adding a hipster celebrity to a hipster label just makes everything that much more hip.

August 2009: Opening Ceremony opens an eight-level department store in Shibuya, taking the LA mini-mall concept and blowing it up to a much bigger size.

February 2010: The Ace Hotel location debuts during Fashion Week.

June 2010: Lim and Leon move their office from a space above the Howard Street store to a bigger, sunnier location on Centre Street.

September 2010: The original Howard Street location expands to include the second and third floors of the building next door, 33 Howard.

· Downtown for Sale [NYMag]
· All Opening Ceremony coverage [Racked NY]

Opening Ceremony

35 Howard Street, New York, NY 10013 (212) 219-2688 Visit Website


478 Broadway, New York, NY 10013 Visit Website

Opening Ceremony

35 Howard Street, New York NY 10013