For a not-insignificant chunk of time in the late 2000s, Opening Ceremony was the coolest retailer in the world. If you wanted to buy Prada but also Topshop, and maybe even headgear from iconic cowboy-hat-maker Stetson, you shopped—or even hung out (in a store! imagine!)—at Opening Ceremony. The retailer also launched its own logo-heavy in-house line, years before we all became our own merch managers. Somehow, everyone wanted the gear. And before collaborations were just something designers did with their morning cup of coffee, Opening Ceremony partnered with everyone from Levi’s to Yoko Ono. Now, just a couple years removed from Opening Ceremony carrying the best-store-in-the-world belt, the retailer is shuttering all four of its shops, according to the brand's Instagram.
The news comes on the heels of Monday's Business of Fashion report that New Guards Group, the Farfetch-owned company with a stable of brands that includes Off-White, Heron Preston, and Palm Angels, acquired Opening Ceremony’s trademark and intellectual property. (Farfetch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
In many ways, Opening Ceremony’s owners Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, who founded the brand in 2002, saw the future of fashion and shopping. Their crystal ball revealed our current mix-and-match era of style, stocking a spectrum of brands that accurately reflect the varied ways guys tend to shop today. The in-house line has become essential for any retailer in recent years, and you can’t throw a big chunky sneaker these days without hitting some oddball brand collaboration.
But Opening Ceremony’s crystal ball grew cloudy over the past couple years. In the spring of 2018, the retailer cut a chunk of its staff in order to “streamline and be smart” and “ensure the future” health of Opening Ceremony’s business, according to WWD.
Still, the news that Opening Ceremony will close down its stores in 2020 is a shocker. Pore over the retailer's website, or stop into the shop while you still can, and you'll find a good store—one with an interesting point of view, that still manages to stock the brands you know alongside new ones to fall in love with. Opening Ceremony's inability to keep that part of its business up and running puts a fine point on how difficult it is to run a retailer in 2020. "We know our decision may surprise you and it may be interpreted in many different ways," the brand wrote in an Instagram caption. "Ultimately, in this time of immense change in the way that people shop, we still believe in the power of passionate and unique retail. But we also believe in the necessity for change, reflection and an opportunity to refresh." (In potentially telling news about the way our spending is shifting, Leon announced he is opening a restaurant today.)
And while Opening Ceremony was once involved in predicting and guiding fashion's future, it will now be a pawn in someone else's vision of fashion's brave new world.
New Guards Group’s secret sauce is its ability to produce high-end items at speeds on par with the Zaras and H&Ms of the world. The group’s founder Davide De Giglio told Business of Fashion in April of last year that he has systems in place that make it possible to make luxury-quality tees, leather goods, and even sneakers in just three weeks. “It’s like luxury fast-fashion,” he said. So while Leon and Lim are staying on as Opening Ceremony’s creative directors, it’s no surprise that NGG will take over production of the retailer’s in-house line, with the hopes of upping the frequency of Opening Ceremony-branded drops, according to BoF. "We’ve made a decision to focus on growing Opening Ceremony collection and brand with our new partners, New Guards Group, and expand the designs of Opening Ceremony," the brand wrote in an Instagram caption.
The move to acquire Opening Ceremony's trademark is just the latest maneuver in Farfetch’s long-term strategy for world domination. The retailer is stuffing its cupboard with the types of brands and retailers that are household names—at least for those in households with small shrines to, like, Raf Simons. Since acquiring New Guards Group in August of last year, Farfetch has already started pulling back on the wide availability of brands like Off-White, while building out a more spacious home for it on Farfetch. The retailer also bought up sneaker reseller Stadium Goods in December 2018, suggesting that it believes the future of fashion will look not so dissimilar from the present: an obsession with the latest, hottest sneaker drops, and a desire to make buying those shoes as seamless as possible. As LVMH and Kering continue to stock up (the former just purchased Tiffany’s in November), NGG and Farfetch are attempting to do the same—the latter are just structured according to different vision of the future than the one pursued by the powerhouse luxury conglomerates.
But Opening Ceremony is a more curious—and complicated—acquisition than Farfetch and New Guards Group's other purchases. NGG is taking a once-beloved downtown hangout, closing down the parts that made it special in the first place, and keeping its husk around in order to sell clothes branded with the markings of a retailer that no longer exists. It's a grab at the cool the retailer established over its nearly two decades in business. De Giglio told BoF that Opening Ceremony’s “credibility with fashion insiders” is no small part of the reason he wanted in.
Over the years, Opening Ceremony cultivated that credibility by welcoming to its stores notable customers like Chloe Sevigny and Spike Jonze, the latter of whom directed short films for the brand. What made the retailer so sexy in its heyday was its ability to form a clubhouse, welcoming those famous folks and the downtown crowd who shared their taste and sensibility. In its Instagram caption, the brand mentions that it hopes to take the "fun and collaboration embodied in our stores and imbue this energy into the clothing we make." It's a noble sentiment, but one that will be hard to achieve with nowhere for that energy to live.
Originally Appeared on GQ