Humberto Leon Believes in Perfect Suits and Comfy Undies

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Inside Opening Ceremony. Photo: Melissa Hom

When college friends Humberto Leon and Carol Lim decided to open Opening Ceremony in New York in 2002, they had no idea that just seven years later they’d have two more stores, in Los Angeles and Tokyo. The original Opening Ceremony on Howard Street is now better than ever, with several collaborations in the works and a focus on up-and-coming designers from around the world. After viewing his stellar spring 2010 collection, we sat down with co-owner Humberto Leon to discuss their Olympic inspiration, how every woman should own a million dresses, and an extensive list of designers who shaped his love for fashion.

Opening Ceremony features a visiting city each year. What’s up next?
We have featured a city or country every year since opening. This year, since we opened our store in Tokyo, we decided to celebrate a year of partnerships. We did collections with Chloë Sevigny, Pendleton, Betsey Johnson, Keds, Timberland, Where the Wild Things Are, Trash and Vaudeville, and others. This will continue until fall 2010.

The store’s name references the Olympics, so what were your favorite Olympic Games?
We always use the Olympics as a source of inspiration. The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles are the most memorable and epic to date.

How do you decide what to stock in the store?
Carol and I always think of occasions, because occasional dressing is the most fun. Whenever we pick anything, we think about the scenario for wearing it. The great thing is that we are on all buying appointments together, so we can always reference the collections we choose.

What is the aesthetic you’re striving for?
Fun, special, unique, classic, forever, nerdy, cool, dressy, functional, and multipurpose.

You’ve done some amazing collaborations. Anything coming up that we can look forward to?
There are some fun ones coming up, but Robert Clergerie is the only one I can talk about.

Describe your favorite piece, or pieces, in stock right now.
My favorite pieces are a Pendleton meets Opening Ceremony patchwork shirt and the Chloë Sevigny for Opening Ceremony Bass loafers.

What was the first designer item you bought or wore?
Some fond memories include a white Wilsons leather jacket, a Forenza sweater, Zodiac buckle shoes with an elastic strap that I wore to prom, and Doc Martens. My first expensive pair of shoes came from Miu Miu's first men's collection. They were square-toe shoes with a Velcro strap and futuristic soles.

Who are some of your favorite designers, then and now?
Growing up, my favorite designers were Levi's, JimmyZ, Maui and Sons, Mossimo, Chess King, Esprit, Gap, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Benetton, Club Monaco, Ralph Lauren, JNCO, Peanuts, UFO, Final Home, Vexed Generation, Walter Van Beirendonck, Agnès b., A.P.C., Helmut Lang, Stussy, Calvin Klein, Prada, Miu Miu, Burberry, Raf Simons, Dries Van Noten, Cloak, Patrik Ervell, Band of Outsiders, N.Hollywood, Lad Musician, Barbour, and Supreme.

What pieces or labels do you wear most?
I always revolve around the same ideas of mixing functional outdoor clothing with dressier suiting-type pieces. I’ve been heavily influenced in style by the late-nineties successful Internet guy — the guy who wore New Balance sneakers with anything he wanted.

Where do you shop most in NYC, other than your own store?
I love shopping at other stores, as well as my own. I shop at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Atelier, Seven, and Tokio7.

What are you coveting these days?
I want a Lanvin coat and a Margiela suit.

What trends are you into this season?
I don't really believe in trends, but I’m into baggier trousers for guys. I’m also really getting into corduroy. I think it is the most appropriate all-season fabric.

Any trends you wish would just disappear?
Jeans worn low to show your underwear and silk-screened T-shirts with tattoo prints.

What should every man stock in his closet?
A perfect suit, a perfect shirt, a perfect pair of shoes, great, hole-free socks, underwear that feels good, T-shirts from your childhood (even if they are ironic), a Pendleton flannel, gray slacks, great khakis, jeans that make you look good, a Barbour coat, New Balance sneakers, Rod Lavers, a Supreme hat, and too many others to name.

Every woman?
A million dresses for all different occasions: short, long, tight, and full. A great oversize cardigan, the perfect silk blouse, killer heels, awesome flats, comfortable tops, Alaïa skirts, and anything Balenciaga.

Finish this sentence: I never leave the house without …
My carabiner of keys, my BlackBerry, my wallet, and my Brookstone windproof umbrella.