August 21 2014

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Nestled in a low-slung building only a stoplight or so from the behemoth Beverly Center, Opening Ceremony’s Los Angeles outpost does exactly nothing to announce itself to the La Cienega traffic humming past its whitewashed facade. But anyone under the impression that founders and masterminds Humberto Leon and Carol Lim devised this modest storefront as a reproach to the typically more-is-more aesthetic of L.A. retail will be brought up short by the two SoCal natives’ inspiration for the shop’s second floor, which opens tomorrow. “We love strip malls,” Lim says. “We always thought it would be amazing to fill one up with little shops from our favorite brands.” “Like, we’d have our own block,” adds Leon. “And our own parking lot.” If that’s the grand plan, Opening Ceremony L.A.’s second floor is a writ-small expression of the same concept: A petite walkway links pocket-size boutiques dedicated to brands such as Mayle, Nom de Guerre, the New York City vintage shop Exquisite Costume, and Opening Ceremony’s own store label. One week shy of this upstairs mini-mall’s public debut, the space was still empty and essentially raw. But neither Lim nor Leon seemed to be sweating the tight schedule as they talked to about Web sites, Wong Kar-wai, and giving West Hollywood a taste of the East Coast.

Mayle and Nom de Guerre are both brands you don’t sell at the New York store. What made you decide to feature them so prominently in L.A.?

Carol Lim: We’ve always loved those lines, but Mayle and Nom de Guerre both have their own stores in New York and their own real presence there, so it would be a bit redundant for us carry them. Here, we have enough space to let them create a West Coast presence for themselves, through our store.

Humberto Leon: Like, the Mayle boutique will feel like Mayle. Jane’s getting in tomorrow; she’s going to paint her space herself. The Nom de guys are coming, too. The idea is pretty much, let’s bring some New York City out west.

Has that process reversed at all? Have you noticed some West Coast influence seeping into the New York shop?

HL: Well, there are the reissued tees we did with Maui & Sons; they’re pretty iconically Californian, and we’re setting up an Amoeba Records station in New York, like the Other Music station we set up in L.A. But I don’t think either of us are particularly interested in the clichés of California style or in taking a bunch of L.A. designers back east just for the sake of pointing out that, yeah, there are L.A. designers. We always try to dig a little deeper.

CL: Opening the Los Angeles store didn’t get us thinking about California so much as it inspired us to think about America. We’re on both coasts, there’s a whole country in between, so what’s American?

Let me guess: Stetson hats and Woolrich blankets?

CL: Good guess. So, yeah, those collaborations grew out of our having an American year, but working with Wong Kar-wai came out of the same place, in a way. He was having this Americana experience, too—it fit.

Speaking of Wong Kar Wai and the collaborative merch you just launched for “My Blueberry Nights”—how on earth did you make that happen? I’ve always had the sense he’s rather elusive, Mr. Wong.

HL: Elusive, maybe, but friendly. And tall! We get approached for tie-in stuff all the time, and rarely if ever are we interested. One day it just sort of occurred to us—why don’t we take the initiative, and approach someone we really love? And we really love Wong Kar-wai.

CL: That’s definitely a direction we’re excited about going in—more collaborations outside the fashion world. Like, right now we’re planning a bunch of stuff around the Olympics.

HL: We are very, very excited about the Olympics.

Do you ever get overwhelmed, juggling so many projects at once? You’re running the Acne store in New York, opening up the second story here, getting up and running for Opening Ceremony’s Japan year in September…plus the showroom, plus designing the Opening Ceremony line, which seems to get bigger and bigger…and I presume there are a few projects you’re not even talking about yet.

HL: The big project we haven’t been talking about—until now—is that we’re finally launching Opening Ceremony online. The complete store. Everything.

CL: Sometime this summer. It’s like we’re opening a third boutique.

HL: It really is, because we’ve tried very hard to make the online shop feel like Opening Ceremony; we want visitors to be able to explore and discover, you know? I mean, for people who don’t live in L.A. or New York, this will be their Opening Ceremony experience. It’s huge. We’re not overwhelmed yet, but I think the servers may be. There’s a lot to load.

Photo: Courtesy of Opening Ceremony