Hazine

10.04.2016 - Anna von Stackelberg

Designer

DOUBLE TROUBLE

WHEN LOOKING FOR PERSONAL HISTORIES THAT TAKE YOU OUT OF THE USUAL AND INTO THE REALM OF THE EXTRAORDINARY, CAROL LIM AND HUMBERTO LEON ARE TWO SUCH INDIVIDUALS THAT HAVE JOINTLY LANDED IN THE CENTRE OF THE FASHION WORLD FOLLOWING A DARING, LEFT FIELD AND SELF-DETERMINED PATH THAT TOOK THEM FROM STANDARD DAY JOBS TO SUCCEEDING AS FASHION INNOVATORS IN A COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY.

Now jointly working as creative heads of Kenzo, Lim and Leon have come a long way since deciding to open their first concept store in New York in 2002.

HEELS AND PYJAMAS

It all started about 23 years ago, when Leon and Lim first met as students at the University of California in Berkeley. Hearing about their first encounter, it is hard not to see it as a foreshadowing of the catalytic relationship the two would forge over the coming years; asked by the newly introduced Leon to join him for a night out, Lim, who was already in her pyjamas at a friend’s house, threw on a pair of heels, spontaneously joining him for a fun night out in her extraordinary outfit of casual PJ’s and fancy high heels. But far from making fashion statements on a daily basis Lim was firmly on track to completing a degree in economics, while Leon was enrolled as an art student. Unbeknown to them and despite formally laying the groundwork for a completely different kind of life, their college years would give Lim and Leon the most crucial element for their later success: a deep and lasting friendship.

OPENING CEREMONY

Both having left their native California in order to pursue corporate jobs in New York, the friends stayed in close contact nurturing a mutual love for travel, street styles and fashion in their spare time. When however, the duo returned from an inspiring joint trip to Hong Kong in their mid-twenties, Lim and Leon decided to ditch their previous career paths and act on their passions by opening a concept store together. Enrolling in a free course to write their business plan and taking a loan of $5000 each, they were set to start on their new venture for which they had chosen a small place on Howard Street, a sleepy place situated between SoHo and Chinatown in New York City. In this way Opening Ceremony was born, a store that was conceived to showcase unrepresented designers from different countries next to co-branded apparel from revived fashion old-timers, such a Levis and Timberland. The fact that the two were the first to feature clothing by Topshop, Acne or the now indispensable Havaianas, is but one early indicator that their out-of-the box approach was set for success from the beginning. Acting as a sort of fashion Olympics, the store opened up an arena in which niche designers from around the globe could compete with American ones, with Lim and Leon inadvertently finding a forum to push fashion boundaries in ways that other designers were afraid to. Needless to say the concept took off like wild fire with further stores opening up in most major fashion centres within the next 5 years.

DESIGNING & KENZO

With stock flying off their shelves and Carol and Humberto finding themselves confronted with rack-space to be filled, the team took a further turn towards self-expression by commencing to design their own sportswear influenced fashion, which was initially sowed by their own mothers. Due to a lack of any formal training, the garments created by Lim and Leon inadvertently barked at long established fashion rules and in this non-conformist way forged a new type of street-smart avant-garde that became an instant hit. Despite their runaway success, it was as a big surprise to most when LVMH decided to hire the pair as creative directors for Kenzo in 2011. But like Takada Kenzo himself, who had come to Paris as a complete outsider in 1964, first to open a store and then start his own label, Lim and Leon brought with them just the right amount of independent thought and a fresh perspective to stir the ailing label into a new direction. Working their trademark casual sporty touch into the house’s line-ups, the duo’s approach managed to bring the label’s appeal back from the brink of retirement to must-have status for a contemporary audience. Still successfully shaping the creative voice of Kenzo and with Opening Ceremony now a household name for a modern kind of cool, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim masterfully embody the American Dream. Following their vision with determination and shunning any fear of challenges, the pair have demonstrated not only a fashion sense that runs ahead of our times, they have also infused their very own maverick aesthetic into the rigid world of fashion and in doing so have revamped the label of fashion’s rogue innovator, Takada Kenzo himself.

Short Facts

Trademark

Carol Lim and Humberto Leon stand out for their non-conformist approach to fashion, which mixes influences from around the globe with a brilliant disregard of fashion rules.

Distinctiveness

Lim and Leon bring a sporty element to the world of fashion in which casual items such as sweatshirts and tracksuit bottoms go hand in hand with high fashion attire.

Anecdote

Carol and Humberto have known each other since their first year in college at the University of California. A deep friendship connects the two, acting as a basis for their work but also keenly upheld outside of their work schedule. To this day the two share a country house in upstate New York and travel together regularly for inspiration and enjoyment.

Backstage at the Kenzo Fall/Winter 2016 show

Timeline

1975 – Birth

Both Carol and Humberto were born in the suburbs of LA in 1975.

1989 – Gap

Leon is hired as store decorator at the Gap in his local mall.

1993 – Meeting

Carol Lim and Humberto Leon meet as sophomores at the University of California, Berkeley.

1997 – College

Lim and Leon graduate from the University of California, Lim with a degree in economics and Leon with a double major of fine art and psychology.

2002 – Opening Ceremony

After an inspiring trip to Hong Kong Lim and Leon abandon their corporate jobs in New York to set up their concept store Opening Ceremony.

2004 – Million Dollar Sales

In 2004 the store hits its goal of a million dollars in retail sales, so Lim and Leon take the entire staff to Jamaica.

2010 – Award

In 2010, Lim and Leon won the President's Award for Excellence in Retail Innovation from The Academy of Art in San Francisco.

2011 – Kenzo

In July 2011 Kenzo parent company LVMH announces Carol Lim and Humberto Leon as co-creative directors for the label.

2012 – Debut Collection

Lim and Leon’s fall 2012 debut collection for Kenzo is inspired by upstate New York and the painter Ellsworth Kelly and sets the fashion house on a new youth focused trajectory.

Photo:

© Lanvin

Share:

More Portraits

  • Mert & Marcus Photographer Portrait

  • Alexa Chung Fashion People Portrait

  • Ulyana Sergeenko Designer Portrait

  • Veruschka Model Portrait

  • Alber Elbaz Designer Portrait

  • Brigitte Bardot Fashion People Portrait

  • Bottega Veneta Label Portrait

  • Hedi Slimane Designer Portrait

  • Alberta Ferretti Label Portrait

  • Mica Aganaraz Model Portrait

  • Gianvito Rossi Label Portrait

  • Olivia Palermo Fashion People Portrait

  • Vanessa Moody Model Portrait

  • Sarah Harris Fashion People Portrait

  • Bouchra Jarrar Designer Portrait

  • Loewe Label Portrait

  • Odette Pavlova Model Portrait

  • Céline Label Portrait

  • Alexander Wang Designer Portrait

  • Phillip Lim Portrait

  • Eva Chen Fashion People Portrait

  • Cartier Label Portrait

  • Karl Lagerfeld Designer Portrait

  • Anna dello Russo Fashion People Portrait

  • Jürgen Teller Photographer Portrait

  • Adriana Lima Model Portrait

  • Victoria Beckham Label Portrait

  • Giovanna Battaglia Fashion People Portrait

  • Mario Testino Photographer Portrait

  • Demna Gvasalia Portrait

  • Daria Werbowy Model Portrait

  • Mary Katrantzou Designer Portrait

  • Suzy Menkes Fashion People Portrait

  • Oscar de la Renta Designer Portrait

  • Naomi Campbell Model Portrait

  • Annie Leibovitz Photographer Portrait

  • J.W. Anderson Designer Portrait

  • A Century New Label Portrait

  • Lineisy Montero Model Portrait

  • Azzedine Alaïa Designer Portrait

  • Phoebe Philo Designer Portrait

  • Anna Wintour Fashion People Portrait

  • Alexandra Elizabeth Ljadov Model Portrait

  • Stella McCartney Label Portrait

  • Kendall Jenner Model Portrait

  • Patrick Demarchelier Photographer Portrait

  • Lanvin Label Portrait

  • Rick Owens Designer Portrait

  • Ruth Bell Model Portrait

  • Raf Simons Designer Portrait

  • Caroline de Maigret Fashion People Portrait

  • Proenza Schouler Label Portrait

  • Scott Schuman Photographer Portrait

  • Joan Smalls Model Portrait

  • Alessandro Michele Designer Portrait

  • Chanel Label Portrait

  • Elena Perminova Model Portrait

  • Twiggy Model Portrait

  • Louis Vuitton Label Portrait

  • Jamie Bochert Model Portrait

  • Alexander Mcqueen Designer Portrait

  • Rihanna Fashion People Portrait

  • Olivier Rousteing Designer Portrait

  • Hanne Gaby Odiele Model Portrait

  • Dries Van Noten Label Portrait

  • Yohji Yamamoto Label Portrait

  • Gareth Pugh Label Portrait

  • Anna Piaggi Fashion People Portrait

  • Comme des Garçons Label Portrait

  • Tilda Swinton Fashion People Portrait

  • Jil Sander Label Portrait

  • Steven Meisel Photographer Portrait

  • Linda Evangelista Model Portrait

  • Claudia Schiffer Portrait

  • Lady Amanda Harlech Fashion People Portrait

  • Georgia May Jagger Model Portrait

  • Saint Laurent Label Portrait

  • Gigi Hadid Model Portrait

  • The Row Label Portrait

  • Eres Label Portrait

  • Helmut Newton Photographer Portrait

  • Yves Saint Laurent Designer Portrait

  • Kate Moss Model Portrait

  • Anthony Vaccarello Label Portrait

  • Francois-Henri Pinault Fashion People Portrait

  • Inès de la Fressange Fashion People Portrait

  • Acne Studios Label Portrait

  • Miroslava Duma Fashion People Portrait

  • Ellen von Unwerth Photographer Portrait

  • Jeremy Scott Designer Portrait

  • Alexander McQueen Label Portrait

  • Carine Roitfeld Portrait

  • Diana Vreeland Fashion People Portrait

  • Inez & Vinoodh Photographer Portrait

  • Anna Ewers Portrait

  • Haider Ackermann Label Portrait

  • Cara Delevigne Portrait

  • Nicolas Ghesquiere Designer Portrait

  • Miranda Kerr Portrait

  • Dolce & Gabbana Label Portrait

  • Hermès Label Portrait

  • Balenciaga Label Portrait

  • Marc Jacobs Designer Portrait

  • Valentino Label Portrait

  • Moschino Label Portrait

  • Marni Label Portrait

  • Kenzo Label Portrait

  • Isabel Marant Label Portrait

  • Marc Jacobs Label Portrait

  • Gucci Label Portrait

  • Christian Dior Label Portrait

  • Balmain Label Portrait

  • Chloe Label Portrait

Latest

  • Stepping Down News

  • Instant Throwback Trend

  • Chanel SS17

  • Hermes SS17

  • Acne Studios SS17

  • Christian Dior SS17

  • Loewe SS17

  • Rick Owens SS17

  • Balmain SS17

  • Dries Van Noten SS17

Related links

Follow

Take away