Met Gala: Theme, hosts, guests 2023
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Met Gala: Theme, hosts, guests 2023

The Met Gala is approaching rapidly. The extravagant event, officially known as the Costume Institute Benefit, is a fixture on the calendars of celebrities, fashion’s elite, and New York high society. It takes place on the first Monday of May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with guests dressing according to the gala’s theme (or ignoring it).

This year, the dress code is “In honor of Karl,” a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, the late fashion tycoon who had an indelible impact but a controversial reputation. All eyes will be on the red carpet to see how guests interpret Lagerfeld’s complicated legacy, as well as whether or not his beloved tortie cat, Choupette, will make an appearance on the museum’s front steps.

This year’s event is co-chaired by actors Michaela Coel and Penélope Cruz, tennis legend Roger Federer, vocalist Dua Lipa, and, as usual, Vogue’s editorial director Anna Wintour.

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Lagerfeld’s career will also be examined in the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” which opens the next day.

An extended legacy

The German fashion designer dominated the fashion industry as the creative director of the legendary French fashion house Chanel from 1983 until his demise in February 2019, as well as the luxury Italian house Fendi from 1965. In addition to his eponymous label, he left his mark on Chloé, Patou, and Balmain over the course of his lengthy career, working with each fashion house in various capacities, and influencing innumerable others.

Just days after his death, his final Fendi collection was presented at Milan Fashion Week, with models including Gigi, Bella, and Kaia Hadid strolling the runway. Cruz made her runway début the following month at his final Chanel presentation.

On Monday, throwbacks to Lagerfeld’s past collections and references to his signature suited-and-gloved style are likely to dominate. He was revered for the transformative power he possessed at each fashion house for which he worked.

Lagerfeld’s collections were not known for a single distinguishing characteristic besides opulence. His oft-repeated, unsavory quote about taking over the House of Chanel was: “Chanel is an institution, and to get anything out of an institution, you must treat it like a whore.”

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Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Pharrell, Keira Knightley, Naomi Campbell, and Cara Delevingne, who will undoubtedly walk the red carpet this year, were among those in his orbit. Gerber (daughter of Cindy Crawford) and Lily Rose-Depp (daughter of Vanessa Paradis) are examples of younger models who have borne the Chanel torch passed down by their mothers.

A controversial figure

Lagerfeld’s influence and star-making ability were undeniable, but over the years he made denigrating remarks that upheld thin ideals or criticized the #MeToo movement at a time when the fashion industry faced a reckoning. It remains to be seen whether all Met Gala attendees will highlight Lagerfeld in a positive manner or opt to make more subversive statements.

Some celebrities, such as Gabrielle Union and Riz Ahmed, chose to commemorate communities that were marginalized during the period of runaway American wealth, despite the fact that the theme of the event was “Gilded Glamour” and many attendees wore lavish attire befitting the era.

Last October, actor and advocate for body positivity Jameela Jamil labeled the theme “a disappointing double standard” in the industry, noting on social media that Lagerfeld’s remarks were recent. It’s very strange when someone gets a free pass, and I don’t want to participate in that.

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The themes of the gala are determined by the Costume Institute’s newest exhibitions. While previous themes have investigated highly conceptual or region-specific themes, such as “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” in 2018 and “China: Through the Looking Glass” in 2015, individual designers have also been recognized. In 2011, they included Rei Kawakubo, who is still alive, and Alexander McQueen, who died the previous year.

“A Line of Beauty” arrives more than two decades after a contentious failed collaboration between Lagerfeld and the museum, in which the designer’s retrospective of Coco Chanel was shelved — officially due to the recent death of the chief curator, though a report from The New York Times alludes to creative conflicts with Lagerfeld as well.

Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty will be on display at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art until mid-July.

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