The biggest night in fashion is back — and its theme may cause claws to come out. Literally and figuratively.
The Met Gala, Vogue’s annual fashion extravaganza at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, traditionally takes place on the first Monday in May. Throughout the years, we’ve seen celebrities show up in some of their most viral looks, including Katy Perry dressed as a giant cheeseburger and Kim Kardashian wearing Marilyn Monroe’s famed Happy Birthday gown.
But unlike at previous Met Galas, when celebrity guests sometimes didn’t quite get the assignment (we’re looking at you, Kylie Jenner), this year’s theme is pretty black and white: It’s “in honour of Karl” — the notorious but influential fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019 at age 85.
Lagerfeld, who began his 65-year career in 1954 at age 17, is widely known for his work at Chanel, but he was also the creative director at Fendi and his eponymous Karl Lagerfeld label. He worked for other famed fashion houses as well. An accomplished fashion photographer, he also shot a number of campaigns for the labels he led.
Yet the designer, remembered for his signature white ponytail, dark sunglasses and love for his cat Choupette, also generated outrage throughout his career with actions that ranged from pedalling Islamophobia to sending flowers to an accused rapist.
He criticized the #MeToo movement and routinely slammed female celebrities’ bodies in relentlessly cruel ways, calling Adele “a little too fat” and Heidi Klum “simply too heavy” to be a runway model, to name a few instances.
Still, despite the controversy surrounding Lagerfeld, plenty of celebrities showed up on Monday to honor him — as well as the Costume Institute’s exhibit Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty, which features 150 looks from Lagerfeld’s career curated by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu and longtime Lagerfeld collaborator Amanda Harlech.
Bolton recently told The Business of Fashion Podcast, via The Washington Post, that the Met’s decision “to focus on the work rather than the words or the man” was a deliberate choice. (It should also be noted Lagerfeld was close friends with Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour.)
“Because, yeah, he was problematic,” Bolton said. “There were things he said that were, yeah, difficult. And, again, did he mean it? Or was it a deflection? I don’t know, it’s hard to know.”
“And I thought the one thing that was authentic,” Bolton added. “The one thing that was real, and tangible, was his output, his creative output.”
For its part, Vogue said Lagerfeld would provide Met Gala attendees with “a rich trove of materials, eras, and aesthetics to mine for inspiration”.
The magazine encouraged guests to interpret the theme in one of three ways: by wearing “an archival look from one of the labels Lagerfeld led”, by sporting “modern-day Chanel or Fendi”, or finally, to dress like Lagerfeld or Choupette, which seems like the purrfect invitation for some truly cat-astrophic couture.
Check out how celebrities embraced the polarising theme — and their best, worst and most hiss-terical looks below.
Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin
Brian Tyree Henry
Suki Waterhouse and Robert Pattinson
La La Anthony