Carol Lim Dishes on Espirit’s New Collection for Opening Ceremony
Get all the details about their latest collaboration.
Get all the details about their latest collaboration.
Text: Jake Viswanath
When Carol Lim and Humberto Leon founded Opening Ceremony in 2002, it became an instant destination for fashionistas and casual observers alike, carrying the most eye-catching and innovative pieces in fashion. Now the store has become a hotspot for designers to work together and experiment, with the latest collaboration being with legendary sportswear brand Esprit. Opening Ceremony is working with the label for the third season in a row, riffing off the iconic logo and the colorful collegiate styles of the '80s and '90s to create a range of plaid jackets, reversible bombers, and cozy sweaters, among other pieces. To get the details on this collaboration that continues to reinvent itself, we caught up with Carol at the store to discuss the inspiration behind the latest collection and why its versatility is so important.
Do you want to just start by walking us through a little bit about the inspiration behind the collection?
Of course. This was inspired by our days at Berkeley, Humberto and I. A lot of it is around pieces that, you know, we were imagining back there now, just like things that we would want in our closet, not so literally like if you were 18, but also things that are super iconic to us really, which is their knitwear, just this idea of twin sets, obviously print and color, so this to us is like the best of, and also kind of infusing, you know, obviously their logo, which is an amazing logo, you know, that we have throughout a lot of the pieces, things like this, this is actually my favorite piece, you know, just because of suspenders. I mean I think the idea of the brand when you think about it is taking, there’s a California ease infused with I think kind of design and if you think about Doug and Susie when they started this, you guys are probably all too young, so you don’t remember, but you know it started and no one was designing clothing like this in the U.S., and they were super inspired by their travel and their trip to Europe, they were very much into design and culture, which is why they ended up having a very close relationship with Sottsass, which is why their stores were amazingly designed. They were really the first brand that took a point of view on literally everything. I mean, you know, the collection was one part of it, but the store, the packaging, even their campaigns around casting real people, using their campaigns for political messaging, I mean they were very, very active. I mean, you know, Doug went on to found North Face. They’re very much into sustainability, life, and how they can infuse that into their brands, and so to us, it speaks to us and this kind of embodies that. That ease but that kind of flair. So, some of my other favorite pieces. I love just this, you know, easy pieces.
Yeah, how did you stumble upon the patterns and the use of colors?
So, we thought about the things they were known for and we were like, “What is going to be our modern interpretation of the print?” And so a lot of this comes from that feeling. it feels very ESPRIT, but obviously it’s stuff that’s been created for now. It’s pretty great to work with their rich history and to be able to apply it to now. I mean some of the hallmarks for us is reversibility, so a lot of the pieces in actually all three collections are reversible, so that’s a big part of what we do.
There's a lot of versatility within the collection. Why is that so important?
I mean you know we’re always of the thought – I don’t know maybe because we’re Asian American [laughs] and, you know, our parents have… – when you can finish a garment beautifully, you know, we’re just like, “Let’s just take it one step further and make it reversible.” Because we love that. I mean think about it, if you could have two looks in one, like, you know, it’s such a bonus. And if you’ve never reversed it, you know that you could, and so for us, it’s something we always think about – versatility and value.
Yeah, and can you also talk a little bit about how the line is all-inclusive? Because I heard that it’s also unisex, which I think is great.
Yep. That’s been a big part actually of a lot of the collection that we’ve design. You know, we find that even as you shop areas, we don’t see that people kind of stick to certain areas. So, this felt really exciting to think about because, you know, it’s a tighter collection and so we said, “How can we...” I mean the guys and girls were attracted to all the different products anyways and how they would style it, and so for us, we’re like, “Let’s try to make everything as unisex as possible.” You know, there are certain things that maybe like this would be more feminine, but even now it, like, it doesn’t really matter, and to us, we’ve always been about celebrating the, you know, idea of occasions and wearing different pieces to different things. I mean that’s how Humberto got me to try – I mean we always think about the store like half of it’s going to be for you and half of it’s not, and that’s ok, but the other half, like come in and have fun and explore and I think, you know, for this, especially because a lot of these pieces are, you know, there’s an ease to them, like, we’re like, “Let’s make everything, you know, unisex.”
That’s amazing. What are some of your other favorite pieces from the collection?
This little bomber too, which we have in the pink color way. I mean I love this set here, I love the sets. I mean I just remember growing up my favorite ESPRIT piece was this fuchsia cherry print. It was a button down shirt with these little kind of cropped pants and I just remember wearing it as a set and feeling like super happy and I think that’s what the brand is also known for, is kind of this joyfulness and, like, feeling optimistic, and I think when you see all the prints, I mean not that you have to wear it that way, but a lot of people do, and I think it’s a pretty, you know, signature hallmark for the brand.
Absolutely. I also notice too that a lot of designers now are starting to carve out clothes that have sets together, so you can wear pieces whether it’s pants or a jacket or a skirt.
Yeah, definitely. It’s funny because I feel like that was maybe reserved for people that were like, “Oh, we’re going to make a statement,” but I feel like it’s happening in all types of brands and I don’t know, it also makes it easy, you have a full look and you can separate it then.
Totally. That’s awesome. I noticed especially with some of the plaid pieces, it kind of reminded me of like an updated version of a colorful school uniform.
Yeah. Definitely. I mean we definitely, you can see some of the influence here in just like the pleated little skirt. A lot of it is around kind of that inspiration, but just obviously paired back to obviously you could wear it with a T-shirt tucked it or wear it over leggings, but yeah, the kind of school and like our – the height of when we were wearing this, I mean I was wearing it from when I was nine or ten all the way through college and I just think about all the different kind of occasions and we try to infuse all of that into this.
Why do you think ESPRIT and Opening Ceremony have a perfect partnership?
I mean I would say that, you know, a lot of the philosophy of ESPRIT is what Humberto and I personally believe. We had a chance through this collaboration to talk to Susie and she talked about why her and Doug started it and they’re like, “We didn’t study fashion and we didn’t plan to start a line, but we’re just like, we see awesome things happening in Europe and we’re going to take that and pair it back to, you know, the California ease and create a line and just play with clothing.” It was a lot more functional and they didn’t see kind of the flare that was in Europe when they were traveling, you know, and they’re like, “We’re going to do our own version of that,” so they just started. It wasn’t like, “We’re going to create this line and do that” – everything evolved naturally. They would travel throughout Europe and they would meet amazing architects and they were like, “Hey, will you like – ” and they became friends and they were like, “Will you come and design our store?” So much of that narrative speaks to how we started Opening Ceremony. I mean I studied economics and Humberto studied art [laughs] and, you know, we just we were like, “Let’s open a story.” I mean mainly because we wanted to support our friends who were designing, and then at the same time we were like, “Wait, there are some things that are missing,” when we opened the store, which is why we started designing. But, you know, we made seven items. We made a hoodie, a bomber jacket, an elastic skirt, this insane turtle neck – just basics that we were like, “Okay, these are the essentials that we kind of didn’t buy,” and kind of this legging pant, and that was kind of the birth of our brand, and it’s obviously evolved to have its own point of view now – and I think it really resonates. I think the way they started and grew, and they are very much into, you know, supporting the community, even sustainable practices, all this stuff that was, it wasn’t necessarily, you know, en vogue to talk about that stuff, but they were very dedicated to the environment and the outdoors.
That’s great because now it’s a huge focal point.
For sure. And they did it. They didn’t even talk about it, they just did it. Susie was like, “I spent time in all of my factories. I knew all the factory owners, their kids.” She was like, “I would stay with them,” and it was really important for her to know everything, where the garments were being made, were made in the right way, that, you know, there weren’t kids making things, and it’s just like, you know, hearing her speak, I was like, “Oh my god. That’s amazing.”