WITH so many chic boutiques now dotting the city, it's not easy dragging out the stylists, editors and "it" kids who will broadcast big buzz. But when the store has a cult following like New York sensation Opening Ceremony, opening night of its L.A. outpost last week was reason enough for these folks to turn out in killer style. Between the cool crowd and the inspired retail concept, the party ranked among the season's big events -- without the million-dollar budget or red carpet. There were the Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, and Jeremy Scott. Charlotte Froom tied an Hermes scarf into a hobo knapsack and let it hang from her pale shoulder, while Ezra Wood turned up the collar of his check jacket, evoking Ducky from "Pretty in Pink."
It was a feast for trend arbiters such as uberstylist Arianne Phillips and Visionaire editor Cecila Dean, who was among the New Yorkers, including designer Benjamin Cho (in cotton-candy pink cashmere) who came West just for the party. All are fans of the SoHo shop that debuted in 2002 with the quirky concept of spotlighting designers from a different country each year in a nod to the Olympic Games. In L.A.'s case, the "rivalry" is between designers based here (Jasmin Shokrian and Katy Rodriguez, who lingered until closing) and New Yorkers (Proenza Schouler, Mayle and others). "Let the games begin," laughed Rodriguez, cinched up in a flowered canvas Dries Van Noten trench and lemon patent pumps.
That's the reaction owners Humberto Leon, a former visual director for Burberry, and Carol Lim, an ex-investment banker, aimed for with this style insider's Valhalla located in a 10,000-square-foot building, formerly Charlie Chaplin's dance studio. United Bamboo, Alexandre Herchcovitch, Hussein Chalayan and Opening Ceremony's own line are among the 60 coveted brands. It's also the only L.A. source for Britain's cheap-chic Top Shop, and will carry Kate Moss' collection in May.
The store marks a homecoming for Leon and Lim, former Valley kids who met at UC Berkeley. Their suburban-fueled visions of California dreaming are evident in the decor, from the whitewashed clapboard dressing rooms that resemble model homes to the ping-pong tables covered in pink and yellow versions of the state flag. A second floor opens this fall. Leon wants shoppers to lose themselves, and likens the labyrinthine shopping to driving the freeways. "On the way to where you need to be, you inevitably discover something amazing."
-- Rose Apodaca