Yin and yang. Body and soul. Man and woman. You can't have one without the other. Humberto Leon, designer of his shop's eponymous label Opening Ceremony, firmly believes in the importance of dualism. "I design with a pair in mind, like a brother and a sister," he says.
Humberto's conviction is that men and women essentially want the same kind of clothes. A few seasons ago, he designed a completely unisex, completely reversible collection, though he admits it was "a little confusing for the buyers." Now he creates corresponding pieces for both sexes, often simply making the same item size-appropriate. This fall, his leather-buttoned, shawl-collared herringbone blazer looks equally chic in either cut. "I like the continuity between the men's and women's [lines]," he says.
Carol Lim is Humberto's balancing force, the business yang to his creative yin. They met as UC-Berkeley students 13 years ago. "Everyone was going to a club, and I was totally geeking out," said Carol. "He convinced me at 2 a.m. to get dressed and go. Our relationship is exactly the same today."
Years after they met, Humberto and Carol were traveling in Hong Kong when they got the idea for a store with a rotating roster of international designers. "We both like to shop and were trying to figure out how to make it a career," said Humberto. Drawing on their professional strengths and experiences—he was a director of visual merchandising for Burberry, and she was working in investment banking—they opened an airy SoHo boutique in 2002.
Halfway into their first season as shop owners, Humberto and Carol realized they stocked plenty of statement pieces, but were missing the basic articles everyone needs and buys regularly. Rather than sourcing such pieces, the duo went into a production of basics—with a twist—their own project. What started with just a sweatshirt (with a diamond design, now a collection staple) has grown into a full line with over 35 pieces for men and women, almost half of them outerwear. "It's the most exciting thing to design because it's what you see on the streets," Humberto explains. "Coats are in the same category as handbags—you can get away with wearing the same one everyday." This season, look for Humberto's signature dualistic approach in items like his oversized tweed coat, which has a nylon lining so it can stand-in as a slicker. The ultimate confirmation that the yin and yang effect can yield a perfectly balanced urban sensibility, too.
Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, proprietors of SoHo boutique Opening Ceremony, believe that when it comes to fashion, what's good for the goose really is good for the gander.