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Opening Ceremony Is Closing All Stores

It’s another sad day for fashion retail.

Another influential New York fashion retail institution is approaching its final days. On Tuesday, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon announced in a letter to customers that all physical locations of Opening Ceremony — the brand and retailer they founded in 2002 — would be closing sometime in 2020. 

This follows Monday’s news that the company, which operates four multi-brand stores in New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo, had been acquired by New Guards Group, a Milan-based holding company that controls brands like Off-White and Heron Preston. According to Business of Fashion, New Guards only acquired Opening Ceremony’s trademark and IP, intending to take over production of its in-house line. In their letter, Lim and Leon indicated plans to focus on the design of the latter.

“We’ve made a decision to focus on growing Opening Ceremony collection and brand with our new partners, New Guards Group, and expand the designs of Opening Ceremony,” Lim and Leon wrote, also hinting that they could return to physical retail in some form in the future. “Ultimately, in this time of immense change in the way that people shop, we still believe in the power of passionate and unique retail. But we also believe in the necessity for change, reflection and an opportunity to refresh. This is a moment of transition for Opening Ceremony and, together with our new partners, we are taking the chance to step back and evaluate the future of our Opening Ceremony retail experience.”

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Dear Opening Ceremony Family, We welcomed our first customers into Opening Ceremony at 35 Howard Street on Sept 1, 2002, a year after downtown New York was changed forever by the destruction of the World Trade Center. We wanted to send a message of love to New York with our company and our big idea to change the way a retail store had been done before. Our dream to connect people from all over the world with positivity, to create a vibrant and inclusive community through self-expression is embodied in the name Opening Ceremony and the idea from where it came, the Olympics. When we began, we took our modest savings and asked our friends to sell their clothes at our store in an area of Soho that had not yet been developed. Brilliant young designers like United Bamboo, Benjamin Cho, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Rodarte and AsFour were juxtaposed with designers from Hong Kong and Brazil who had never sold before in the US. We also made our own first pieces to sell, a diamond sweatshirt at first, which, by wearing it, became a shorthand for “I shopped at Opening Ceremony”. The store became a hangout and a meeting place for so many different visitors and locals who came by to find out what was happening in New York, because you could always get the scoop when you shopped. Opening Ceremony has expanded and evolved in countless ways since those first years in business. We’ve grown our own collection, starting from the platform of our first store, into a global Opening Ceremony brand for which we’ve held some of the most ambitious experiential fashion shows imaginable. At the same time, Opening Ceremony stores have been home to remarkable staff, customers and creative people where the wildest experiments in retail have taken place. Our stores in New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo have connected people from around world together and brought so much joy into our lives and to the lives of those who have come through our doors.

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Opening Ceremony opened the doors of its Howard Street location in New York on Sept. 1, 2002 with and Olympics-inspired name and the idea to highlight emerging downtown brands alongside designers from other countries that had never sold in the U.S. before. In addition to its unique and influential concept and offering, Opening Ceremony became known for simply being a cool place to hang out. As a young college student in NYC, I found myself there many a weekend afternoon despite not being able to afford a fraction of most items, and I always left feeling inspired. (You can bet the minute I got my hands on my first credit card I made some of my first irresponsible purchases there.) 

Not unlike fellow beloved retail casualties like Colette and Barneys, Opening Ceremony inspired an emotional connection in its fans and customers, and was more than just a store for a lot of people. Already, the fashion community has begun eulogizing it on Twitter, as you can see below.

R.I.P. Opening Ceremony, the place — and fashion retail as we knew it.

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