Whenever we pop into cool-kid enclave Opening Ceremony, we leave with knowledge of a brand we’d never heard of or a purchase slightly out of our style norm. Alongside the retailer's in-house line, the diverse assortment of products the store sells is totally unique: homegrown labels large and small, international designers, and a plethora of exotic souvenirs from across the world.
Founded by pals Carol Lim and Humberto Leon in 2002—who now design for Kenzo, too—the goal was to showcase multinational talent à la the Olympics. Well, mission more than accomplished. But with the clothing and accessories market so oversaturated, we’ve always wondered how they settle on certain brands and products above others. What, essentially, makes the Opening Ceremony grade? To find out, we spoke to Carol Song, Opening Ceremony's head womenswear buyer.
Scroll down to find out how Opening Ceremony buyers settle on products for their stores!
The market is so oversaturated these days. What do you look for most in the brands that you decide to pick up at Opening Ceremony?
"It’s about how the product makes me feel: excited, challenged, surprised, curious, or inspired. I really love it when a collection invokes something inside of me. The worst thing is when I walk through a collection and I feel absolutely nothing. I also make sure that the collection can stand apart from all of the other products we already carry in store. The worst thing for a designer is to have their collection lost in a sea of other designers."
Once you’ve settled on brands you’re interested in, how do you decide on the actual product to pick up?
"We look at quality, prices, and how special the product is. We try to balance the collection with both editorial and commercial pieces, all the while representing the breadth of the designer’s collection, which Opening Ceremony is well known for. Yes, it's about the product, but it's also about the storytelling of the brand."
Are there any qualities that make you particularly skeptical of a brand or product?
"Not at all! It just depends on how a brand or collection stands out to me, and how I see our customers reacting to it."
Do you keep a certain girl in mind when you’re buying? Or have any celebrity or "it"-girl references?
"Yes, always! [I think about] all the girls who shop in our stores—celebrities, stylists, and editors—but also all the girls who work with us, from the shop floor to the head office. We try to buy for all different types of women, of all ages and [with varying] interests. We've always loved the idea of having a whole family—a grandmother, mother, and daughter—come in and [all] leave with something special."
In what ways might you take risks as a buyer?
"At OC, we're risk takers, and we pride ourselves on the new brands we believe in and love, [even] when we're their first and only stockist. We care about our designers, and aim to help them grow their business, because we know it's tough to get your name out there. [Even if they don’t] have the best season, we stick to it and help to market and promote them. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of all the new brands we've found have now been picked up by other top specialty shops and majors. It's a great feeling when we see our designers get there—we’re kind of like proud parents. Some of these brands include Marques Almeida, Isa Arfen, and Jacquemus, just to name a few!"
What are some of your favorites outlets for discovering young, up-and-coming brands?
"Traveling and meeting different people with totally different interests. It’s highly likely that they’ll all know of an amazing brand or have a friend who does something great. I search high and low for this—on the street, in the beauty salon, at a bar—in so many different places."
What do you think differentiates your product selection from other stores?
"We follow the beat of our own drum. We're a community of pure, positive energy and fun, and all of this is reflected in the brands we work with and the products we carry."
Christopher Kane Floral Embroidered Leather Jacket ($4140)
Alexander Wang Prisma Soft Rubberized Backpack ($1695)
Opening Ceremony Focal Suiting Flared Loren Pants ($395)