Humberto Leon and Carol Lim got personal and political for their latest Opening Ceremony collection, which showcased a see-now-buy-now fall — not spring — lineup, in tune with the label’s decision to show its collections in-season instead of six months ahead. As first-generation Americans whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Korea, Hong Kong and Peru, the duo wanted to celebrate the story of the American immigrant. “With the timing of where we’re at in terms of the election, Carol and I wanted there to be a message, and there’s no better way to do it than with entertainment,” explained Leon before the show. “We invited people in our community, our friends and family, to speak. Some are just going to be funny, and some are going to speak on things that are thought-provoking and important to us.”
Emceed by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia,” and with cameos by strong, funny women — among them, Whoopi Goldberg, Rashida Jones, Rowan Blanchard, Natasha Lyonne, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Williams and Aubrey Plaza, who spoke on everything from feminism to the global refugee crisis — the show felt like more of a politically oriented comedy hour, with the fashion coming in second. Leon and Lim called it a “Pageant of the People,” a tribute to “the American democratic process and the diversity of those who participate in it,” according to show notes. It wasn’t your traditional American beauty pageant, the kind owned by Donald Trump (until he sold the rights to WME/IMG last year), but rather one that subverted norms and celebrated the unconventional. And, through a partnership with Rock the Vote, guests could register to vote on-site at the show, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
All of it was powerful, moving, funny — a great way to spend Sunday night. But what did it mean for the clothes? Leon and Lim referenced images of their parents and immigrants arriving on Ellis Island, drawing on elements of layering and functionality. To that end, the duo partnered with Canada Goose on a capsule of unisex outerwear — puffy down jackets in black, army green, burgundy and navy lined with paisley-printed silk. Space-dyed knits were ribbed, color-blocked, striped and threaded with metallic Lurex, making a bold impact in vivid hues. Leon said the silhouettes were “intentionally feminine” this season, as in the skirts and collared shirtdresses decked out with tiered ruffles, hand-smocked panels and floral embroidery.
Armisen and Brownstein provided commentary for each look on the runway, gently teasing the straight-faced models. “This model gave birth to a baby this morning,” Brownstein joked. “This dress is made of food,” Armisen would say, or, “This dress is not for sale for 10 years.” The models, ever professional, barely flinched.