A gathering of the world’s biggest players, Opening Ceremony continues its tradition of highlighting design talents across borders with its latest reveal for Spring/Summer 2020. After turning to Mexico for a well-timed curation of brands and artisans to feature in their retail spaces, design duo Carol Lim & Humberto Leon have taken their focus a step further by uplifting the house’s codes on a troupe of Mexican and Mexican-American creatives like Cassie, Jessica Alba, and 2019 CVFF nominee, Victor Barragán. With vibrant portraits shot by Stefan Ruiz, Models.com spoke to Humberto Leon about the duo’s reference to Mexico this year, realigning with their brand after leaving Kenzo, and the politics of championing the underrepresented.
Features Editor – Irene Ojo-Felix | Editorial Assistant – Anire Ikomi
You have recently collaborated with photographers to shoot your collections rather than a traditional runway show – as retail evolves, do you find that designers have to move towards different avenues of promotion?
I think one of the most important aspects of collaboration is allowing for a conversation to happen between all parties. In working with photographers whose work you admire, it’s important to have an open discussion about what would be important.
It has been a pillar of my work to think about inclusion in a way that feels both meaningful and authentic. It’s important for me to do something and commit to it. We shot our first Kenzo campaign with Roe Etheridge with five black models; we had an 83-person Asian cast for our runway show that was inspired by Ryuichi Sakamoto and supermodel Sayoko Yamaguchi; we had an all-Queer front and back of house for our Opening Ceremony Spring 2019 show in collaboration with Sasha Velour, to name a few examples. Using Opening Ceremony as a platform to showcase the underrepresented is a commitment I like to make both front of house and behind the scenes.
How did the collaboration with Stefan Ruiz come about?
I’m a huge fan of Stefan’s portraits and we wanted to work with a Mexican photographer that could really bring this group of models and non-models to life. He was the perfect collaborator on this as he is also a strong voice in the Mexican community.
What about Mexico’s culture inspired you in your creative process for SS20?
Mexico has a rich cultural history and we experienced as much as we could while traveling back and forth to Mexico for a full year before the launch. While we traveled from Chihuahua to Guadalajara to Mexico City, I came across such a range of amazing personal style. Everyone from bakers to street vendors to butchers and dancers had their own distinct style that informed the colors and carefree spirit of the collection.
Your recent “The Familia” portraits series highlighted Mexican & Mexican-American artists like Jessica Alba, Cassie, Christina Martinez, and Rafa Esparza. Why did you choose to include these creatives and how do you see them as a family?
These creatives all have a unique voice and bring something important to the Mexican community. They are all joined by their heritage and an understanding of what that heritage means to them. We interviewed all of them as part of the project and for all, there was a strong sense of pride of being Mexican or part Mexican.
Why do you think it’s important to use your platform and the Opening Ceremony flagships to promote international talent?
I think it is less about international talent, but rather underrepresented groups. At Opening Ceremony, we have a platform and a big one. To be able to give our platform to people whose voices I want to hear is a privilege of ours. We are not shy to talk about politics and if we can lend our platform to talk about things, we will.
Your team visited Mexico 6 times in the past two years and met with 85 designers – what did that trip entail and what about the country’s tradition aligned with Opening Ceremony’s purpose?
We were in search of creative people that may not have thought it was possible to sell their work outside of Mexico. We wanted to give them a home to showcase their talents. We did a lot of research to find people who have a distinct voice and ended up meeting so many different types of creatives from fashion designers to jewelry designers to ceramists and more.
What was the curation process for all the Mexican brands and artisans that you choose to highlight in the store this year?
We approach everything with storytelling. So if we found a person or a brand with a unique voice, then we immediately wanted to include them in the project. We are so proud of the group that we have put together—they really reflect the diversity and breadth of creativity in Mexican culture.
When it comes to brands like Barragan, Tuza, Equihua, and Le Jesus – what do you hope your customers take away when coming across their designs?
I hope our customers see how special these brands are and realize they are buying something from people who believe in their culture. I think supporting these young designers goes so far and everyone who finds these brands will realize how unique they all really are.