WASHINGTON — An Opening Ceremony runway show in the nation’s capital?
Don’t rule it out just yet. Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders and co-owners of Opening Ceremony, were toying around with the idea here on Friday after visiting the Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building, where the Cooper Hewitt’s D.C. High School Design Summit was held.
“We were just talking about this and we said maybe we should move one of our fashion weeks and have a show in D.C.,” Leon said in an interview. “We were so inspired by the building. It is under renovation, but it’s an incredible space and we thought it would be a perfect space for a runway show. So root for us. Tell the right people. Get the word out that we will do a fashion show here.
“Why not? I feel like New Yorkers would come here. It’s only a three-hour train ride.”
Opening Ceremony is the winner of this year’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion Design and Leon and Lim attended a luncheon at the National Museum of the American Indian honoring the award winners.
The National Design Awards are in their 17th year and were established to promote all aspects of design as a “vital humanistic” tool in shaping everything from architecture to fashion design to art.
“It’s exciting. It’s a national award, both Cooper Hewitt and the Smithsonian, institutions that we admire so much,” Leon said. “Everyone who has won this before us has been a really incredible person that we admire, so it’s a big honor.”
The company has expanded considerably since it launched in 2002 and now consists of the Opening Ceremony ready-to-wear, accessories and footwear collections for men and women, as well as retail outlets in New York, Los Angeles and Nagoya and Tokyo. They also have a wholesale showroom in New York and an online platform. Lim and Leon also are creative directors of Kenzo, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“A big focus [this year] is e-commerce for us. We are re-platforming. We’ll have a new launch at the end of the year, which is exciting. We are exploring and concepting new forms of retail,” Lim said.
They have three physical stores in the U.S. and six in Japan, Leon said. In addition to the relaunch of their online platform, they said they have new plans for Kenzo, with initiatives being launched by the end of the year, although they declined to elaborate.
Standing in a room with the Capitol dome in the background, Leon and Lim riffed on what First Lady Michelle Obama, who serves as the honorary patron for the National Design Awards, has done for fashion and culture, as well as the current state of politics.
“She’s one of the most impressive people that I feel we’ve met to date aside from Mr. President,” Leon said. “I think her commitment to kids and education and thinking differently has been a very big inspiration for us, not only as designers but also as Americans.…And I don’t know that we’ll ever have anything like this in our lifetime again.”
Lim concurred. “She has an incredible energy when she walks in the room. You can feel her strength. It washes over you.”
As for her support of American fashion designers, both agreed she is unparalleled.
“She’s been a big supporter of also showing the relevance of fashion and fashion design, and also culture. We design Kenzo, which is a Japanese brand and she wore a dress of ours to her first visit to Japan and I think she’s really considerate in terms of thinking about what she does as a representation as an American and as a woman,” Leon said.
Lim said Obama “knows that each of those decisions has a greater significance and I think she’s very precise about that, which is really great.”
Asked if the next first lady would have big shoes to fill, Lim was quick to point out that the country could have the first “first man” after the presidential election this fall.
Both are Democrats and Leon said Bernie Sanders still has a chance of winning it.
They both grew serious when asked about the inflammatory comments made by Republican front-runner Donald Trump that have dominated the race.
“We’re watching our own reality series but actually the nation’s at stake, which is not something you want. It’s not funny,” Lim said.
Lim said they don’t agree with or stand with a lot of what Trump has said, particularly about immigrants.
“We are immigrants and we’re also from California, which borders Mexico, and there is a lot of what he says that doesn’t sit well with us,” the designer said.
This year’s other National Design Award recipients include: Moshe Safdie for Lifetime Achievement; Make It Right for Director’s Award; Bruce Mau for Design Mind; Center for Urban Pedagogy for Corporate & Institutional Achievement; Marlon Blackwell Architects for Architecture Design; Geoff McFetridge for Communication Design; Tellart for Interaction Design; Studio O+A for Interior Design; Hargreaves Associates for Landscape Architecture, and Ammunition for Product Design.
The award recipients will be honored at a gala dinner Oct. 20 at the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at Cooper Hewitt.