Back for its second season, Opening Ceremony's revival of Esprit's classic sportswear and logo-heavy pieces takes on a much springier approach than it did the first time around — and it'll surely please those who have been transitioning out their darks and ushering in all-pastel-everything.
Whereas the first drop was all about bold, primary hues, the latest installment of Esprit by Opening Ceremony narrows down the color story to three main themes: stripes, prints, and pastels. "If you look at decades of what [Esprit has] done with their collections, they really go after an idea," Carol Lim, co-founder of Opening Ceremony, told Refinery29 at the launch of the brand's pop-up installation in New York. "For us, we almost think of things in installments, knowing that we’re building a library of things that feel like the brand can do: There might be shapes we bring back in the next season in different materials, but it was definitely intentional to do primaries [first], more autumnal colors for the fall collection, and, here, to go lighter and more feminine."
The collection, which debuted today in stores and online, retails for $30 for a logo cap and goes up to $250 for a printed denim jacket. The latter is one the pieces Lim said she was most excited to work on, as it both draws from Esprit's archive but also feels like something that fits in with the OC brand. "When we look at this, we [ask]: If Esprit would’ve started now, in 2017, does it feel like the collection?," the designer said of co-branding a line. "To us, it does. To me, it feels very Esprit, but it also feels very us."
Lim described the Esprit of the '80s and '90s — a retailer she and Humberto Leon actually shopped in their youth — in a way that's similar to how people characterize Opening Ceremony today: pioneering, having a Californian sensibility, bringing together global experiences, experimenting with colors and prints. "It’s not coincidental," she admitted. "Humberto and I grew up when this was at its peak. We were influenced by going into their amazing stores: You’d see the architecture and their collaborations — they worked with people who they respected and loved, and it didn’t matter that some were architects and furniture designers and others were photographers. They street-cast [campaigns]; they were like, ‘We’re going to break the mold.’" All of these are are rooted in a gut feeling for what was right for the company, she explained. "When we started [Opening Ceremony], we had never run a store — so we were like, ‘This feels good,’ ‘We’re interested in this,’ and ‘Let’s work with that person.’ That kind of attitude, which is really how the brand started, is really something that we identify with."
In a time where comeback stories are a dime a dozen in retail, Lim noted that Opening Ceremony's approach to nostalgic fashion, especially when it comes to its collaborations, isn't simply to bring back a familiar logo from the brick-and-mortar graveyard: It's about looking at a brand's DNA, finding parallels to the boutique's own story, and playing with it in a way that feels authentic and relevant to its customer today. "If the story is authentic and if it resonated with people and if those values still hold, I think that story is easy to tell," she said. Esprit was a brand that, both aesthetically and internally, was ahead of its time, with its bold use of color and prints, its inclusive approach to campaign imagery, and its acknowledgement of issues like sustainability and longevity in fashion. "If people connect to that story and what the brand was about, people will connect to it again," she explained.
For its spring/summer release, Opening Ceremony also returned to Esprit's signature photoshoot style: bright, happy group shots. "We already knew those images from growing up," Lim explained. It was a matter of asking: "What’s the modern version of doing that for today?" In 2017, that means tapping unfamiliar faces with somewhat familiar names to front the campaign: Among the Esprit for Opening Ceremony models you'll spot Coco Gordon (daughter of Kim Gordon) and Arsun Sorrenti (son of Mario Sorrenti). One flip through the lookbook ahead, odds are you'll get flashbacks to the iconic Esprit campaigns from the brand's heyday — which will likely only tempt you to shell out for one of those logo sweatshirts even more.