Pret-a-Reporter

NYFW: Opening Ceremony Out-Cools Themselves Again With Spike Jonze Photo Exhibit

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From left, Lim, Jonze, skateboarding legend Mark Gonzalez and Leon.

What can't the Cali cool brand do?

It's pretty much standard at this point that if you get an invite to anything produced, launched or thrown by Opening Ceremony, it's gonna be good. Last February Carol Lim and Humberto Leon's evolving superbrand had a runway show with actual chocolate walls. In September they asked Jonah Hill and Spike Jonze to write a play, which opened at the Met and featured Bobby Cannavale, Rashida Jones and Elle Fanning. And this season — in keeping in perfect step with their usual awe-inducing fashion week presentations — OC hosted a gallery exhibit of mid-'80s to early oughts-era, SoCal-inspired photographs taken by Jonze throughout his travels. And when one's travels include music video shoots with The Beastie Boys, Bjork swimming in a pool, Sofia Coppola hanging out in a parking lot and Kim Gordon honing her craft, the results are not unpleasant. 

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"I've been hounding [Jonze] for six or seven years to show me his photo archives because I'm a photography fan and a nerd of pop culture," Leon told Pret-a-Reporter from the exhibit opening at Cheim & Read Gallery in Chelsea on Sunday night (where a perfectly appropriate soundtrack of Notorious B.I.G. and Bjork played). "Finally after years he said, 'Hey, it's in a place in L.A. where we can look at it.' He pulled it all together and said, 'If you want one day I'll sit down with you and show you some stuff.' So that moment turned into three days of us looking at photos and him walking me through moments. It started as a personal conversation between friends." 

Rosario Dawson stands in front of some of Spike Jonze's skateboarding photographs, taken between 1985 and 2005. 

Leon was so taken by the photos — which share the same Southern California, counter-culture vibe that the designer and his partner, Lim, grew up with and, in turn, have woven into their brand — that he told Jonze he wanted to create a collection around them. 

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"He was like, 'Go for it! I don't even know what that means, but go for it,' " Leon said. So he did, hanging the photos up around his office and creating fabrics based on the images — including a woven jacquard print that came courtesy of a Sonic Youth photograph. 

Once the the printed box coats, slouchy androgynous trousers and burnt orange midcalf skirts were ready to roll, Leon realized that he had an office full of photocopied photography that deserved a much more glamorous home. 

"I felt like I wanted to share my friend's work with the world," Leon said. 

Opening Ceremony's fall 2015 collection. 

So set amid grainy, film-shot photos (no iPhone snaps to be found) with Jonze (and his adorable mother), Rosario Dawson, and L.A. skateboarding legend Mark Gonzalez in tow, Lim and Leon showed off their latest goods, which pretty much stick to their usual formula for success: one part Venice beach skateboarder, one part downtown L.A. street art and completely perfect for those sun-saturated SoCal days a certain type of person always longs for — especially when it's 9 degrees in New York. 

The old-school film component of Jonze's photos was important to Leon -- so much so that he approached Kodak about a partnership and created sweatshirts stamped with the film company's vintage logos.

"Why not whip out a film camera?" Leon asked. "Who knows what you’re gonna get?"

We're already asking the same question of Opening Ceremony's next presentation. 

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