Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are taking over Paris: freshly appointed as creative directors of Kenzo, the two New York–based designers talk about the legacy of their concept store Opening Ceremony and their plans for the legendary Kenzo label.
Daniele Balice: Before we talk about Kenzo, we have to speak about Opening Ceremony and how your adventure started. I clearly remember when, in 2002, while Downtown New York was still dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, you opened the coolest fashion store in the city only minutes away from Ground Zero. How did everything start?
Humberto Leon/Carol Lim: We had come up with the concept of what we wanted the store to be in early 2001, and had just quit our jobs to make it a reality when 9/11 happened. In the wake of such a traumatic event, we considered scrapping the idea, but in the aftermath of 9/11 the city encouraged downtown businesses and we opened the doors to our store in 2002. We wanted to support New York designers as well as designers we discovered during our travels. We wanted to feature a country every year — inspired by the Olympics, which picks a host country each time.
DB: I think I met you at an art opening. Since then I have seen you at every interesting art-related event, from the most official to the very underground ones. How important is art in your practice?
HL/CL: We have such a diverse range of interests, which is why you see so many different kinds of partnerships at Opening Ceremony. Art is something that we love and it inspires us daily. We have watched many of our friends develop their careers in art. We find our dialogue with them a source of ideas that often turns into projects together.
DB: Now that you are at Kenzo, the brand has finally regained the multicultural, colorful identity that was lost for a while — which in my opinion is sadly missing in fashion today. Do you plan to continue speaking to a wider audience with this aesthetic?
HL/CL: We really want the language of Kenzo to be one that celebrates culture and diversity. It is important to us that we design collections that appeal to a wide range of women, that we include pieces that are appropriate for every occasion, from a casual lunch date to a formal evening event. We’re excited to create forward momentum for the brand, to make it feel authentic and real.
DB: Opening Ceremony has always been a laboratory for interdisciplinary collaboration. Will you be able to bring this energy to Kenzo? Are you going to develop any collaborations?
HL/CL: We have always celebrated the global community and encouraged collaborations between unlikely partners. Kenzo Takada had this same vision, and infused the DNA of the brand with that openness. In that spirit, we want to bring back that sense of partnership to Kenzo and to collaborate with friends and the Kenzo community when appropriate for the brand. We’ve already begun to collaborate with jeweler Delfina Delettrez and art director Juan Gatti for the women’s fall-winter 2012 collection, and will be working with Vans and New Era. The feedback and enthusiasm for these partnerships has been overwhelming.