June 9, 2023

Camellias are Still Blooming for You, Karl

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Many of us have heard that The Met Gala is a fundraiser event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute that marks the opening of its annual exhibition. However, not many of us know the purpose of the Institute: The Metropolitan Museum collects and studies significant works of art across time and cultures with the goal of promoting a more profound historical and theoretical understanding of costume. Therefore, the Met Gala supports the effective preservation of fashion history. 

This year’s Met Gala was one of the brightest in recent years. It received substantial attention not only for the “controversial” theme, but also for great well-thought costumes. There is no better way to describe this year’s theme than Chris Clemens did: “This theme is essentially paying homage to Karl Lagerfeld who is the legend behind brands like Chanel, Fendi, Chloe, etc. But if you don’t know what any of that means, it’s going to look like a ton of people attending a really fancy funeral.” 

Karl Lagerfeld, the legend-designer, knew how to create signatures tied both to him and to the fashion house. In his Fendi era, he challenged perceptions of fur. In his Chloe era, he established this fashion house’s style and revolutionized the worlds of fashion and perfume. Additionally, he was the first famous designer to collaborate with the mass market brand H&M. In 1983, he became the design director at Chanel, having turned down the offer from the brand three times before. Lagerfeld took the motifs of Chanel such as camellia, chain and quilting, and used them in a very irreverent way. He made Chanel move with time without losing its uniqueness. 

Karl Lagerfeld has vocalized strong claims on different sensitive topics many times. While the media is trying to create massive scandals around Lagerfeld’s name and accuse him of all imaginable sins (that end in a trendy “-phobia”), after listening to his actual thoughts, I cannot state that he possessed any of those “-phobias.” He made the claims that are not in favor of the majority in the society, however, they were not targeted to offend any social group. The designer was expressing his position and opinions, and had the courage to stay with them. As does any other individual, he has the right to express himself and be respected in expressing his opinions. Journalists, changing the meaning and adding spice to his words, act truly unprofessionally. Nevertheless, as Anna Wintour said: “The exhibition focuses on Lagerfeld’s work and not a biography.”

The Met guests implemented such core details in their costumes as black and white palette, camellias, pearls, tweed fabric, belts, black leather gloves, black tie and black glasses. All of these were references to the house of Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld himself. The biggest concern of most critics was the beige color of the carpet that washed out many costumes since they were in black and white, nude and beige palettes. 

Though it was easy to go simple and end up looking like the rest of the guests (especially when it comes to men in black suits), some artists made stunning costumes: Jordan Roth, Tems, Penelope Cruz, Anne Hathaway, Dua Lipa, Conan Gray. Two artists made me speechless: Jeremy Pope and Doja Cat. Jeremy Pope, the actor best known for Hollywood (2020) and The Inspection (2022) movies, made the most literal “paying homage” I’ve ever seen: Pope entered the carpet showing a 30-foot-long black-and-white cape with the late designer’s face. Doja Cat loves challenging the idea of established beauty norms. She emphasized that after shaving her head, she felt the freeing energy of beauty and understood that women don’t have to follow the notion of what most people think beauty is. In collaboration with Oscar De La Renta, the artists paid homage not only to the designer, but also to his beloved cat, by wearing a silver to white beaded gown with a cat silhouette. The Met Gala 2023 also brought us Rihanna and new memes: A$AP Rocky’s appearance at the carpet, a huge cockroach as the last guest of the night and, again, Doja Cat meowing at the interviews. 

Nika Makoviak is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].