It’s onward and eastward for Opening Ceremony.

This story first appeared in the April 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On Tuesday, the bicoastal specialty boutique known for its Olympic-inspired concept and downtown sensibility revealed plans to open its first store in Japan this fall. The project is the result of a partnership with Onward Holdings Co. Ltd., which, according to Opening Ceremony co-owner Humberto Leon, purchased rights to the Opening Ceremony trademark in the Japanese market.

Leon said he and his business partner, Carol Lim, had been eyeing Japan for some time, but it wasn’t until they were approached by Onward, the $2.74 billion Japanese retail giant that also owns Jil Sander, that definite plans took shape. “We wanted to make sure we found the right partners,” said Leon in an exclusive phone interview from Tokyo, where a press conference will be held today.

While Onward is financing the Tokyo store, Leon is firm about his and Lim’s creative contributions. “Carol and I are very much involved in the entire process of the opening, the buying, everything,” he said. “We’re working really closely with the team to make that happen.” Thus, Leon said they are looking to create an “exaggerated version of our Los Angeles store,” which he describes as a “mini-mall concept” full of shop-in-shops (labels are to be determined), as well as home and food components that will be unique to the Tokyo store. A space has yet to be designated, but Leon said they are looking for “double the size of the L.A. store,” or roughly 10,000 square feet, all of which will be designed by the Los Angeles-based firm Commune.

Leon and Lim opened their first store on Howard Street in New York in 2002, followed by a Los Angeles outpost in 2007. It quickly caught on thanks to its unique approach to retail — the core concept is a riff on the Olympic Games whereby designers from a particular country are spotlighted each year — and exclusive collaborations with Nike, Chloë Sevigny and, most recently, Betsey Johnson.

Asia — Japan in particular — has always been something of a fascination for Leon and Lim. Not only is Japan the current subject of Opening Ceremony’s international rotation, but as Leon put it, “Asia was always the inspiration for us because it was the energy of the shopping [there] that inspired us to open up a store in New York. It was only a matter of time before we came back to Asia.”


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