Apr 29, 2014
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Carol Lim and Humberto Leon: "All the up-and-comers want to join big brands"

Apr 29, 2014

Saturday, April 26 in Hyères, a few hours before final deliberations, FashionMag met with the presidents of the festival’s fashion jury. Friends since they were teenagers, the American duo share a passion for scouting talent, important for their work at Kenzo - their work at the company now the subject of an exhibition at the Villa Noailles in Hyères until May 25, 2014.

FashionMag What did you want to do with the exhibition at Villa Noailles Kenzo?
Carol Lim and Humberto Leon: Organizing the exhibition was very interesting. When we first arrived at Kenzo, the first thing we did was to visit its archive. We wanted to make sure that whatever we do, our clothes would carry Kenzo’s essence with them. What’s funny is that since then, we’ve never gone back! Our idea was to choose the pieces that we believe best represent who we are. Then, we had our team delve into the archives to try to find connections. The Kenzo archive is huge and each piece is carefully protected - you need days to find anything. It was terrific to find silhouettes that mixed different prints, and to compare them to our autumn-winter collection, which just so happens to play with the juxtaposition of different prints (photo).

The Kenzo exhibition at the Villa Noailles in Hyères, France (DR)

FM: When you arrived at Kenzo, what kind of direction were you given?
CL and HL: We had total freedom. We brought our own ambition to the table while paying tribute to the fashion house. That’s what we did for example when we said to ourselves, “what if we gave men the ‘cloud’ prints that Takada offered women,” to quote one of the most telling examples. "And while he used clouds for a silk blouse, what if we were treated it in a structured kind of way?” He is one of those designers that made a mark on the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s and is also the kind of person we wanted to be friends with. Our goal is to translate that kind of energy for today and for tomorrow.

FM: Did the commercial viability of finalists’ projects shape your decisions, especially since you are designers and business people at the same time?
CL and HL: The only designers for whom the question seemed important to us was for those who wanted to start their own label. One of the finalists (Yulia Yefimtchuk, who was awarded a special mention by Opening Ceremony, ed) has incidentally already marketed her collection for two seasons. We asked each of them if they preferred to start their own line or to join a houses’ studio. Only one (or maybe two) said that they absolutely wanted to go solo. All the others wanted to work for established brands.

Takada’s "cloud" prints beside those of Lim & Leon (DR)

FM: How are deliberations going among the jury you selected?
CL and HL: A few hours before final deliberations, I can already tell you that it will not be easy because, even if they’re friends, each of one has their own personality and their own, very strong opinions. So much the better too, since this is also why we chose them. But I think it may be particularly stormy (laughs).

FM: You founded Opening Ceremony in New York more than ten years ago. Today, you have branches in LA, London and Tokyo. Why not in Paris, where you spend most of your time?
CL and HL: France doesn’t have the best reputation in terms of entrepreneurship, especially for up-and-comers. That’s enough of a deterrent already. But we’ll keep looking to see if we can’t find the right location...

FM: What part of Paris would you open an Opening Ceremony store?
CL and HL: It could be in the Marais, of course, or maybe in the tenth arrondissement near Canal Saint-Martin, for example. We love that part of town and have spent a lot of time there long since before launching Opening Ceremony. We have our favorite spots like "Thanx God I'm a VIP," a second-hand shop (rue de Lancry, ed), where we shop regularly...

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