As activists took to the streets in protest of Donald Trump’s attacks on women’s rights and attempts to ban entry to the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Syria, Yemen, and four other nations, Opening Ceremony founders Humberto Leon and Carol Lim demonstrated their disapproval in a quieter — though no less potent — manner. In lieu of a spring 2017 runway show, the two designers collaborated with Justin Peck and the New York City Ballet on the debut of The Times Are Racing.
The new work by Peck portrays chance encounters between strangers on city streets, set to music from electronic experimentalist Dan Deacon’s 2012 album, America. Leon and Lim designed costumes for the production that included a series of shirts, dubbed the Action Capsule, emblazoned with words like “Defy,” “Protest,” “Shout,” “Unite,” and “Fight.” The dancers were also adorned with jeans, overalls, and graphic hoodies that drew inspiration from nineteenth-century photographs of immigrants arriving on Ellis Island. Each performer wore a unique outfit, underscoring Peck’s theme of diversity.
“I researched each dancer through social media to get a sense of their personality and so I could design with them in mind,” explains Leon. “The audience can see their individuality come through while still appreciating the overall collective aesthetic. The idea of inserting fashion into culture is something we have championed for a long time now, and we wanted to share this experience with our audience.”
Beyond the capsule collection, Opening Ceremony’s spring line, which is currently on sale via the see-now-buy-now-wear-now model that the designers adopted last season, also featured collaborations with Alpha, Ben Davis, Gitman Bros, Rains, and Dickies. Additionally, prints across kimono jackets and cowl-neck dresses were inspired by the works of W.W. Denslow, illustrator of the first edition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A fantastic storybook plays out across fringed pieces, as interlacing hands pluck roses, children explore gardens, and monkeys learn to fly.
Leon previously worked with Peck on NYCB’s 2015 piece New Blood; Peck also choreographed Opening Ceremony’s spring 2016 show. The designers are no strangers to activism, either: Opening Ceremony registered attendees to vote at their fall 2016 show, which featured speeches on transgender rights and the need for affordable healthcare.
Proceeds from sales of the Action Capsule shirts will go to the ACLU. “Opening Ceremony has always been a forum for free speech, individuality, understanding,” says Leon. “We will never be silent about these issues, and you’ll continue hearing more from us.”
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