Each year on the first Monday in May, the biggest names in fashion, music, television, film and culture in general assemble at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for fashion’s biggest night of the year: The Met Gala.
The Met Gala is a yearly event hosted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to raise money for their annual costume exhibit. Every year, the exhibit chooses a new theme for the gala and its exhibit — honoring different ideas, topics and people related to fashion. Past themes have included “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” “China Through the Looking Glass,” “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” and many more.
This year, the theme was “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” Lagerfeld died in 2019 and was best known for his creative work for fashion houses such as Chloé, Fendi and, most famously, Chanel. May 1, 2023 was all about celebrating Karl Lagerfeld’s impact on fashion during his nearly 40 year career in the industry.
The Met Gala is always met with some type of controversy. Typically, the event itself comes under fire for being a gaudy display of wealth. It has an iron wall of exclusivity with ticket cost estimated at $50,000 and whole tables being $300,000. Even having the money to afford a ticket doesn’t always guarantee an invite. All guests must be approved by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Once getting on the guest list, Wintour then must approve guests’ outfits.
This year’s Met Gala garnered a new layer of controversy with its choice to honor Lagerfeld’s legacy. Lagerfeld was notoriously fatphobic. He has mocked the #MeToo movement when it came to the forefront of cultural dialogue in 2017. He has also critiqued his home country of Germany for accepting immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.
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As a fashion fanatic, the Met Gala is a day I look forward to every year. I remember my mixed emotions when I found out about the theme honoring Lagerfeld. I thought it was a great way to celebrate the designer for his amazing and influential work, but I was worried about his image being glamorized. I do not align, endorse or agree with Lagerfeld’s beliefs.
But we can often live in a world that ignores how two things can be true at once. Lagerfeld can, and will, go down in history as an awful person who did amazing things for the fashion world. Lagerfeld had a true passion and dedication to the art form of fashion. He worked hard to curate a specific image and embodied different ideas at every house he led.
So does the Met Gala honoring Lagerfeld mean they endorse all aspects of who he was? Yes and no. The event and exhibit itself serve as a way to honor the impressive work Lagerfeld executed. To approach an event of this caliber with ignorance of Lagerfeld’s comments upholds the values he supported.
It’s also wrong to blame Lagerfeld alone for antiquated fashion standards. Fashion is not inclusive — plain and simple. The industry has upheld systems of fatphobia, sexism, racism and colorism. This doesn’t justify any of Lagerfeld’s actions, but his rise in the industry was built in a culture where harmful mindsets were the norm.
With this in mind, this year’s Met Gala knocked it out of the park. I knew walking into it we would be seeing a lot of black, white, tweed, flowers, pearls, cats and brides.
I wanted to see how people melded Lagerfeld’s staples with identities of other fashion houses, as well as how they embodied Lagerfeld’s work beyond Chanel. I also wanted to see people embrace Chanel imagery beyond the brand’s sleek and chic fashion by delving into the house’s sexier, edgier side.
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If I had to pick a winner for the night, it would be a tie between Michaela Coel and Anok Yai. Coel was dressed in a Schiaparelli gown that embodied classic Chanel embellishment while still staying true to the house’s staples.
Anok Yai took a modern approach to the idea of the Chanel bride in a gold and silver cocktail dress covered in paillettes. It embodied classic chicness with a modern edge. From the mask covering just her eyes to paillettes going down her tights, it was a chef’s kiss.
Doja Cat did what she does best: have fun. She came dressed as a cat in homage to Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette, whom he loved more than life itself. Jared Leto also attempted an homage to Choupette, but it was just odd and ineffective.
Anne Hathaway was another star who blended Lagerfeld’s imagery with another brand’s identity. Dressed in a white Versace tweed gown, which was embellished with pearls and safety pins, Hathaway’s look screamed Chanel while still being distinctively Versace.
The Chanel bride was a trope we saw across many looks, but no one’s take made my jaw drop like Alton Mason’s. The elegant, masculine reimagining of a traditionally feminine trope moved me emotionally.
Other strong brides paying homage to the traditional Chanel look included Ava Max and Gisele Bündchen.
Some celebrities looked to honor Lagerfeld himself. From Teyana Taylor to Janelle Monáe to Kendall Jenner, many stars reinvented the classic Lagerfeld look – which was typically a white shirt, black pants or dark jeans and a slim black jacket. Jeremy Pope also stormed the carpet in a cape with Lagerfeld’s face on it that took up the entire floor.
Other celebrity stand-outs from the night included Yung Miami, Kim Petras and Cardi B.
The carpet closed just like a couture show: with a bride. Rihanna was the last look on the carpet and the bride of all Chanel brides. Every element of the outfit was right. Covered in a coat with flowers double the size of her head and sunglasses with fake lashes, Rihanna’s look was fun, glamorous, sexy and stunning all in one.