Opening Ceremony Acquired By New Guards Group; To Close Stores

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Above image: Humberto Leon and Carol Lim on the runway for Kenzo in 2019

NEW YORK, UNITED STATESAmerican clothing brand and retailer Opening Ceremony, which was founded in 2002 by American fashion designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon was just acquired by New Guards Group.

New Guards Group (NGG), the Italian holding company founded in Milan by Claudio Antonioli, Davide de Giglio and Marcelo Burlon, which operates a portfolio of brands including Off-White, County of Milan, Palm Angels, Unravel Project, Alanui, A Plan Application and Heron Preston was sold to online fashion retailer Farfetch last summer, for $675 million (see it here).

NGG has acquired the Opening Ceremony trademark and intellectual property, with plans to take over production of Opening Ceremony’s in-house line. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim will remain at the head of the soon to be relaunched brand as co-creative directors. It was also announced that the four retail stores will close in 2020.

Our curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit have been at the centre of Opening Ceremony since we founded the company and our continued search for innovation led us to this partnership with Davide de Giglio and Andrea Grilli, who have created one of the best global brand platforms in existence today,” Leon and Lim said in a joint statement. “This next step for Opening Ceremony means we get to connect our desire to invent the future and design for our community to a dynamic infrastructure.”

Leon and Lim opened Opening Ceremony’s first store in New York in 2002 with their own savings and a small business loan, according to a 2017 profile in the New Yorker. The spot became a meeting place for a generation of stylish creatives and anchored a new retail zone north of Canal Street. In 2011, Leon and Lim were hired as creative directors for LVMH-owned brand Kenzo. They parted ways with the company in 2019 (see it here).

In 2013, Opening Ceremony’s in-house line made its much-anticipated New York Fashion Week debut with a flair that would become typical of its runway shows — a lot of celebrities, high production value and eclectic creative contributors ranging from director Spike Jonze to dancer Justin Peck. At one point, the label was available at about 400 wholesale doors.

But attempts to scale the Opening Ceremony brand have faltered.

With a former partner, private equity firm Berkshire Partners, Leon and Lim planned to open more stores that would showcase Opening Ceremony’s own line. That didn’t happen. Instead, reports surfaced in 2018 that the founders were looking for a new investor and later, BoF reported that the business had cut employees in a round of layoffs. Last year, the founders said they had bought out Berkshire’s stake.

With New Guards now on broad, they will bring Opening Ceremony’s production to its base in Milan, relaunch the brand’s website on the Farfetch platform and set up a showroom in Paris. The goal is to release products more frequently and expand categories. Currently, the Opening Ceremony brand represents less than 25 percent of the business’s total revenue.

Just last week NGG, also acquired Japanese jewellery label turned streetwear brand Ambush. But New Guards’ efforts until now have focused on launching and developing emerging brands, not trying to bring back an once hot brand.

But Opening Ceremony’s credibility with fashion insiders is one of its chief selling points, De Giglio said, adding that he sees a different future for the brand, and Leon and Lim, who were one of the first retailers to pick up NGG-backed labels Marcelo Burlon County of Milan and Off-White.

“They are great talents and based on our know-how, we can really help them and push them to be more focused on what they are good at,” he said, describing Leon and Lim as trailblazers in the collaborations space, now a common way for emerging and mainstream labels to work together. “They were the first brand to start with this new way of luxury.”

With new owners, New Guards Group, Opening Ceremony plans to close all its retail locations sometime in 2020.

In a letter that Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, cofounders of Opening Ceremony, sent to the media community and friends Tuesday, they said that they made that decision “to focus on growing the Opening Ceremony collection and brand with our new partners New Guards Group, and expand the designs of Opening Ceremony.”

Opening Ceremony has multibranded stores at 35 Howard Street and the Ace Hotel in New York, on N. La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood, and in Tokyo. The stores feature emerging and established international women’s and men’s fashion and accessories designers, art installations, exclusive products and essentials from Lim and Leon’s international adventures.

“Our stores in New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo have connected people from around the world together and brought so much joy into our lives and to the lives of those who have come through our doors,” said the cofounders in their letter. The first store opened on Howard Street in 2002.

The cofounders said that with their new partners, they plan to re-evaluate the future of the Opening Ceremony retail experience. “We are stepping back from multibrand retail for a moment, so we can come back with an experience that is just as inspiring, filled with love and relevant for the years ahead as Opening Ceremony has been,” they wrote.

The two partners said they plan to return.

Photos Credit: Anne-Christine Poukoulat/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business of Fashion

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Donovan is the CEO and Editor-In-Chief of For all general inquiries please email Donovan has a BA in Journalism & Media Studies from the prestigious Rutgers University. He's currently studying entertainment and fashion law.