In 2002, college friends Carol Lim and Humberto Leon founded Opening Ceremony in the spirit of the Olympic Games, pledging to create a retail experience that merged their shared interests of fashion, art, and travel. After a life-changing trip to Hong Kong, the duo established what would become known as the brand’s modus operandi: highlighting a different country each year and sharing its culture and design offerings with the rest of the world.
The latest country to get the Opening Ceremony treatment? Mexico, our oft-misunderstood neighbor to the south, which—you may have noticed—has been in the news almost nonstop for the last few years. And that’s precisely what made it the ideal candidate for Opening Ceremony’s multinational design incubator.
“Growing up in California, Carol and I have always been fascinated by the cultures, food, arts, and design of Mexico,” Leon tells COOLS. “It seemed like the perfect time to focus on and celebrate the beauty and diversity of Mexico, given the current sociopolitical climate in the U.S. We want to focus on the positive of Mexico and celebrate the people who are doing incredible things there.”
And so, the brand has officially dubbed 2019-2020 the “Year of Mexico.” An array of Mexican designers will be sold exclusively at Opening Ceremony, including several pieces created just for its brick-and-mortar shops in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. Think one-of-a-kind bags from Agua D’Mar, custom jersey pieces by MyPalma, and locally-made cowboy boots sourced by Baby Angel Boots.
“In Mexico, we found so many amazing creatives who draw influence from their cultural heritage, but are presenting their work in a modern design context,” Leon explains. “The designers, artists, and artisans [in Mexico] authentically celebrate the beauty and diversity of their country.”
Considering the breadth of Mexico’s diversity and the depth of its many intersecting cultures and traditions, identifying which designers and products to highlight for the Year of Mexico was a major undertaking.
Both Leon and Lim visited various bazaars and markets throughout Guadalajara and Mexico City, including Tonalá, which is well-known for its native arts and crafts, and Mercado de Sonora, to find handicrafts and decorative arts.
“While in Mexico we met with over 80 designers and artisans before narrowing it down to a selection of fashion, art, home goods, handcrafts, and jewelry,” Leon shares. “Many of the brands featured have never been sold in the U.S., and several pieces are exclusive to Opening Ceremony, which makes this project feel special to us.”
As part of its efforts to champion real social change, Opening Ceremony is partnering with Fondo Semillas, a Mexican non-profit organization dedicated to women’s causes, including the fight against gender discrimination and violence, equal employment rights and fair salaries, and the right for indigenous and rural women to own land.
Both Lim and Leon are optimistic that introducing new Mexican visionaries to the masses will be a transformative and educational experience for consumers everywhere.
“We hope people take away a deeper appreciation and understanding of our neighboring country,” Lim says. “Humberto and I love to travel and founded Opening Ceremony after we were inspired by a trip to Hong Kong. That spirit of exploration is something that motivates us and keeps us excited, which we hope people can experience through the Year of Mexico.”
Below, COOLS highlights some of the designers to keep a close eye on, even after Opening Ceremony’s Year of Mexico has come and gone.
A darling within the fashion industry for some time now, Barragán continues to make a name for itself as a label with a futuristic edge that’s the antithesis of bland and boring.
Outerwear truly doesn’t get much better than these bespoke leather jackets handmade in Mexico, which feature impeccable detailing and unmatched craftsmanship.
LeJesus considers itself “collectors of textiles from Mexico and Latin America” who collaborate closely with women-led indigenous communities to support and promote their handwork.
This LA-based brand takes its main inspiration from San Marcos blankets—thick, colorful pieces known for featuring bold iconography that are ubiquitous in Mexican communities.
This gender-fluid streetwear brand boasts clean, classic silhouettes in a core palette of white, red, and black that looks good on pretty much everyone.