Opening Ceremony’s cofounders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are treading into new territory with Justin Peck, Opening Ceremony X NYCB, which bowed at 8 p.m. Saturday night during a New York City Ballet world premiere at Lincoln Center’s David Koch Theater.
Lim and Leon collaborated with the ballet’s resident choreography Justin Peck to create costumes for his new work, “The Times are Racing,” with music by Dan Deacon. The performance served as Opening Ceremony’s spring ready-to-wear presentation with guests that included buyers, press and family.
“The ballet was the perfect opportunity to invite people to experience the collection in a different platform and different venue,” Lim said. “It’s for this season that we’re doing that. We’ll have some sort of celebration during women’s fashion week.”
“Times” interprets encounters between strangers on city streets, conveying serendipity and connections. Lim and Leon drew on 19th-century images of Ellis Island, where immigrants from diverse backgrounds crossed paths. The spring collection is a meditation on the American melting pot and a not-so-subtle rebuke of President Trump’s immigration policies, which include building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to prevent illegal crossings.
“The election has been really top-of-mind for Humberto and me and the rest of the world. Justin was influenced by what was happening in the world. The piece is pretty exciting and hopeful and full of energy. It’s a great way to celebrate culture and see different worlds coming together,” Lim said, adding the ballet is empowering at a time when cuts in funding for the arts seem certain.
“It’s incredible, that not a day or night goes by when I’m not emotional about [the election],” she said, adding she was proud when Mayor Bill de Blasio stood up to Trump and threatened to sue if he directs the federal government to limit funding for “sanctuary” cities that harbor undocumented immigrants. “It’s not only backward and against every single thing a lot of people believe in. It was really thoughtless and inappropriate. My parents immigrated to the U.S. and became citizens. It’s really shocking, and what’s more shocking is that things he’s done in the past are uncovered every day, and people are like, ‘Yeah, so what.'”
“The people who have platforms can be depressed and go sit in the corner, but that’s not helpful,” Lim added. “You have to decide how you can make a different and move forward.”
Leon worked with Peck early in the collaboration, Lim said, adding, “There was a synergy happening. Justin had a specific point of view. He didn’t want [the costumes] to look like modified dancer’s clothing. They’re not wearing pointe shoes, they’re wearing sneakers. He wanted realistic clothing that people actually wear.”
In the collection, lace and satin brush against Americana denim and loose silhouettes embellished with macramé fringe and embroidery. “A lot of the pieces will be available for purchase [Jan. 29], and some were made exclusively for the ballet.”
Prints owe a debt to the work of W.W. [William Wallace] Denslow, illustrator of “The Wizard of Oz” and other classic American fairy-tales, Lim said. Storybooks play out across cowl-neck dresses, kimono jackets and mesh tops as children explore psychedelic gardens, interlacing hands pluck roses and monkeys learn to fly. In Opening Ceremony’s version of the American Dream, such collective fantasies inspire connections across cultures.
Romantic details such as a flounce hem on capri pants, maxidress draped in floor-length fringe, godet inserts in delicate custom lace add interest to a silk midi-skirt and a silk bomber jacket’s sleeves. Stripes add geometry to sweaters with pointelle knit cuffs and folk macramé trims. At least the palette is derived from classic ballet hues such as peach, lilac, lavender and blue. There’s also army green and racer yellow. Wide-leg pants transform into capris with snaps, there’s a deconstructed inside-out denim short and a new Dip jean short style.
Offering product after the ballet isn’t about jumping on the see-now-buy-now bandwagon. “Our philosophy has always been, ‘How do we get the product to customer at the right time?'” Lim said. “Most of the collection will be in store and a few pieces will be delivered in the next few weeks. It’s more about showing something that’s appropriate for the season. We don’t need to do this movement to get things hot in people’s hands. It’s crazy that in December, all winter merchandise is removed and spring deliveries start. We timed show for things that make sense for the stores. We already worked on our calendar before this whole movement of people needed to buy off runway. We have our own cadence of how we deliver.”
Another set of prints feature words such as “Unite” and an “Act” patch with words such as “Shout,” “Defy” and “Protest.” If the collection is too pricy for some, Opening Ceremony x Google phone cases for Pixel and Nexus phones will bow Jan. 29, for $40 each. “You’ll see some of the rtw prints in the Google collection,” Lim said. “We’ve always loved speaking on all levels. Humberto and I grew up in suburbs and would go to malls, so we love speak to all different levels. Often, accessories like these are entry points for people to enter brands.”
The collaboration is part of Google’s Artworks Live case series, which has featured Jeff Koons, Jen Stark, Friends With You art collective, Jeremy Scott and astronaut Chris Hadfield, among others. Opening Ceremony’s case comes with a live wallpaper set of each design in the collection that can be programmed to change throughout the day. A shortcut button on the case can be programmed to launch Wi-Fi, the camera or an app.
“People are attached to their phones and they’re an extension of style,” Lim said. “It’s nice that we have these phone cases that can become collectibles.”