Opening Ceremony Was a Place Where Standing Out Meant Fitting In

Photo: ]/Getty Images, Google Maps

This week, Opening Ceremony founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon announced that after 18 years in business, the company will close all of its stores in 2020. The news was bittersweet. No retail upheaval is met with shock these days — the long, slow death of Barneys at the end of last year, of course, prepared us for this moment. But for some downtown-oriented New Yorkers, Opening Ceremony was something like a Barneys; it was a place of discovery and a haven for stylish weirdos looking to debate the latest runway collections. Since 2002, a neighborhood has been built around it. Even the store’s bags carried a particular social cachet — I remember desperately wanting to carry my high school textbooks in one, although its flimsy material could handle about three zines, max.

If you’ve ever shopped at an Opening Ceremony location, chances are you still remember what you bought, because it was unlike anything else out there. In honor of the store’s contribution to New York, we asked 10 stylish locals to describe the best, strangest, most memorable Opening Ceremony purchase they ever made, below.

A Camo Minidress for Rihanna

“Opening Ceremony was where you could always find the thing you didn’t know you needed. The night before Rihanna’s Talk That Talk album cover shoot in 2011, I felt like something was missing — something to twist the mix, because I wanted to change her look for a new era. I ran over to O.C., which is a block from my studio, and found an Opening Ceremony camo minidress on a sale rack in the basement. That’s the dress she’s wearing on her Talk That Talk album cover. It was exactly what I needed to tell my story. I’m still running there from jobs to find that one special thing, and I’m sad to see it go.”
Mel Ottenberg, stylist and creative director of Interview magazine

Pink Silk Pajamas for the Club

“When I moved here in 2011, my friends took me to Opening Ceremony. I couldn’t afford anything but got pink silk short pajamas that were super cute. I wore the pajamas with cowboy boots out to Morrissey night at Sway and ended up dancing like a crazy person with a very drunk Alexander Wang. I felt like I had arrived.”
—Brandon Veloria of Chinatown-based vintage purveyor James Veloria

A Bathing Suit With James Dean’s Face on It

“I shopped at Opening Ceremony in my early 20s, when my style was psychotic and loud and attention-seeking. I also had a lot of store credit and a steep discount. One thing that I was really proud of was a one-piece orange swimsuit that had James Dean’s huge face on the torso. Like, why??? Was it ironic? I wasn’t (still am not) a huge Dean fan outside of thinking he’s a hot man. It was indicative of my own young-person mental place, but also of O.C. as this world that was wacky but cool. Everyone was peacocking and O.C. carried the brands that helped them stand out.”
Anna Gray, creative director and co-founder of vintage app Object Limited and former Opening Ceremony e-commerce model and stylist’s assistant

A New Favorite Designer

“Opening Ceremony was a place of discovery. I would see things each season on the runways and could always count on going to O.C. to try on the styles. O.C. brought the fantasy to us. I came across a lot of brands there. One of them is Grace Wales Bonner, who is my absolute favorite designer. I guess what made them special is that they championed young design and daring originality. There are few places that take chances on the future.”
Antwaun Sargent, writer, curator, and critic

An Insane Puffer Coat

“I photographed Opening Ceremony when they first opened in NYC when I was working for TimeOutNY. I think my ultimate piece I’ve bought from there has to be my Marques Almeida puffy coat. It’s an insane coat. Completely oversized and closes with a super large safety pin. I saw it in L.A. and ran into Humberto while debating if I needed it and he was like, ‘you gotta get it, it’s made for you.’ I debated and then obsessed and bought it later in NY.”
Shaniqwa Jarvis, photographer

Some New Nails

“Opening Ceremony is more than a shop — it’s a landing place for so many New Yorkers. I am thankful that I was able to see how full and abundant a retail space could be when the people at the helm treat their shoppers, stockists, and community as family. My favorite trip to O.C. was when they hosted a Lady Fancy Nails pop up. Every time I looked up a friend was walking in with open arms. The evening was strewn with embraces. It was one of those days that you realize the world is quite small in the best way.”
Kimberly Drew, curator and writer

A $325 McDonalds Visor

“In 2014 I bought the Moschino visor from the McDonald’s collection for $325 which was way over my budget. That was one of the cheapest things in the store at the time! I was so proud of it. I never wore it, and had it sitting in my bookcase as a piece of art.”
Erin Yogasundram, former owner of viral online store Shop Jeen, manager and partner of comedian Kerwin Frost, mother of Waffle Frost

A Magritte T-Shirt

“Opening Ceremony was the Mecca for all things cool, aspirational, and out of my price range. When they released the Magritte collection in 2010, I fell off of my chair. I needed it all. The piece that became mine is a scuba fabric T-shirt featuring Magritte’s ‘The Beautiful Relations.’ A hazy cloudy sky with a strong nose, a single eye, pink lips, and a single hot air balloon. I think at this point, it’s too special to wear. I’ll frame it instead.”
Susan Korn, founder and designer of Susan Alexandra

A Sense of Belonging, As a Fashion-Obsessed Teen

“Opening Ceremony has been a staple of my life since 8th grade. I would go there every Tuesday and sit on the top floor with [my friend] Sakinah. We would eat strawberry-flavored Pocky and talk about everything from my home life to whether or not we liked the new Helmut Lang. My favorite piece, for what it represents, is a Maison Kitsuné color-blocked polo shirt with three layers. It was my first-ever O.C. purchase and I remember feeling: This is the beginning of something. It was the first step in the life I was meant to lead. I had found a home.”
—Ellison Baus, high school senior and “Mercer Corridor” regular

Everything, Ever

“I think every piece I’ve bought from Opening Ceremony has been my favorite. Their never-ending support for young artists and designers has put me in my weirdest, loveliest, coziest outfits. My favorite thing about O.C. is the people who work there — it’s always been a good space for casting. Their inclusivity beats any store I’ve gone to. I just know when I walk in I’m going to be met with the cutest and coolest people.”
Petra Collins, photographer

At Opening Ceremony, Standing Out Meant Fitting In