Photo by Isabel Asha Penzlien.
When Humberto Leon and his Opening Ceremony co-founder Carol Lim took a trip to Hong Kong a couple years ago, they were so impressed, both of their asses blew off and slammed against the wall.
Once back in the States, they decided they wanted to expose the designers whose work they’d found, and in September of 2002 they opened the doors to their own little Roman Coliseum.
It works like this: Every year, Humberto and Carol handpick a roster of designers. The picks are divided into a US home team and a foreign visiting team, and then it is fucking on, as the clothes duke it out, no holds barred, over the course of twelve months. Depending on variables like how well a visiting designer’s clothes sell and specific press coverage throughout the year, three designers are honored as the top “medalists.” These winners are then permanently adopted by the US team and compete on the side of their former adversaries against the next country—crafty, eh? Today the US All-Star team features formidable gear by heavyweights like Benjamin Cho, United Bamboo, Cloak, and newcomer/obsessive-stitching-fiend Annie Ok, among others. On top of that, Humberto’s put some steroids in the drinking water with the addition of his own Opening Ceremony clothing line, a powerful retinue of sweatshirts, coats, and thermal variations that are currently in high demand. The Home Team has become asymptotically unstoppable. They spent the past year kicking Hong Kong’s ass. Next month, they commence to bone-crush a team from Brazil for a year. And there has already been talk of Berlin, the following year’s contender, forfeiting (pussies). In less than a year, the store has built a huge fan base, encompassing everyone from downtown scumbags to the editors of Vogue. “I’m really into all of the excitement that builds up around the competition,” says Humberto while freaking out over the strengths of the Brazilian team’s bathing suits. “The whole concept came about just because I’ve always loved the Olympics.” MATT EBERHART