The Met Gala — formally known as the Costume Institute Gala — is fundamentally an annual fundraising gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute which doubles as the grand opening for that year’s Costume Institute fashion exhibit at the museum but since collaborating with Vogue it has become fashion’s biggest night.
Under the direction of American Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour, The Met now attracts celebrities, designers and everything in between while worldwide press and every aspiring fashionista on social media watches with a pinch of envy.
Invited celebrity guests are supposed to take this opportunity to put together the most creative couture or avant-garde looks possible in relation to that year’s theme by collaborating with whichever designer “invites” them (or rather Anna assigns them to) to truly show off fashion as an art form to the world.
The theme of the exhibit is also the theme of the gala. This year’s is “Manus x Machina: Fashion In The Age of Technology”. Garments that are part of the exhibit in the museum were all created using materials and techniques made possible by advancements in technology. The exhibit highlights the realistic and practical applications of technology in fashion such as lazer cutting and 3D-printing.
In this the age of Twitter, Instagram and live streaming, the entire fashion world and anyone even remotely interested in it can feel included. Every year millions of people across the globe are watching, commenting, critiquing and ranking every gown, hairstyle, tuxedo, makeup look and shoe that steps on the red carpet. Myself included.
Infact, a few of my tweets made the rounds. But with twitter forcing you to keep it short and sweet, I didn’t elaborate on every point and assumed people would get what I was trying to say but alas, some did not. So let me explain….
Balmain probably gets more social media coverage than half the high fashion industry put together as Olivier Rousteing’s (Creative Director) “Balmain Army” includes the supermodels Cindy Crawford, Joan Smalls, Alessandra Ambrosio and Jourdan Dunn as well as Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. All of whom posed on the The Met red carpet in “custom Balmain” that not only had basically nothing to do with the theme but also looked (and possibly felt) like wrapped-in-tin-foil versions of his pre-existing overexposed designs. Olivier has stuck to the same Versailles-inspired aesthetic and dressed the same in your face celebrities and models from day 1 so everything he does is all just merges into one huge tired hard to distinguish from each other display.
He needs a vacation or 2 or 3.
After photos of Jaden being spotted a handful of times in skirts, dresses and flower crowns went viral it helped put the spotlight back on androgynous fashion but this time in a new age context so social media dubbed him a millennial androgyny icon of sorts. He and mass fashion media took that and ran with it. He did interviews speaking about gender fluidity and how clothes should have no rules. He also landed a multimillion dollar deal to be the face of Louis Vuitton and even starred in a campaign styled in women’s clothing. But since then, aside from some nail polish or a women’s leather jacket here and there, Jaden is pretty much sticking to typical menswear seeming ensembles. If he really was about androgyny wouldn’t he be showing up to events like The Met in things more obviously women’s wear and using his platform to start removing the stigma attached to the concept of “a guy wearing a skirt”? After all, the world was watching. But I don’t blame him, he saw an opportunity to collect a cheque and did. However it is the nature of social media that it regularly assigns a cause or movement to a celebrity without knowing if they even truly stand for it or indeed fight for it. Let’s be clear: it’s disrespectful to and frustrating for the people who legitimately do stand for said cause. Stop it. Let the face of a movement be someone who embodies whatever it’s about, not just someone who fits the “look” associated with it.
This past season at his New York Fashion Week show, the ever so talented and charming Zac Posen made a huge statement in support of the ongoing fight for diverse representation of models. He flipped the script and almost exclusively cast models of colour. He also created an instagram campaign where he was featured carrying a bag that had “Black Models Matter” printed on it. He got tons of praise and press in the following weeks from fans and fashion professionals all over the globe for fighting the good fight. So my question is; why did he stop short of dressing and being accompanied by a model of colour for the Met Gala just 3 months or so later? If Naomi was busy he could have tapped one of the new flavour of the month IT girl models who are popular right now and were there too like Imaan Hamaan. And he still could have dressed them in the same glow in the dark Cinderella meets Grace Kelly gown. I mean, where is the consistency? I’m tired of people latching on to causes like this for the publicity one season then not following through. All that does is create the illusion of change. This happens way too often in fashion and that’s why people are still fighting for diversity in 2016.
I praised Karolina Kurkova in Marchesa and Claire Danes in Zac Posen for sticking to the theme but more importantly what I meant by that (and what I should have said) is they are 2 of the very few who upheld the Met standard.
If you only started paying attention to The Met because Rihanna began gracing it with her presence, you may not have noticed a decline in the standard of looks on the iconic red carpet covering those grand Met steps in recent years. The whole thing has… digressed.
The Met red carpet in the past has been where celebrities can wear remarkably dramatic captivating designer creations that they could never wear at the Academy Awards or Golden Globes but now they are practically indistinguishable. Yes, laser cutting is an example of technology in fashion but that doesn’t make everything that is laser cut of Met standard. Meeting the basic requirements of the theme is not enough to create a fashion moment. The Met red carpet is meant to be a series of fashion moments to remember and that will be idolized by future generations. But I don’t blame the celebrities…
I blame the low key regulations restricting a lot of celebrities from being dressed by other designers. There are plenty of designers and brands creating art in the form of clothes and utilizing advancements in technology – some of which are on display in that very museum. So why then is nobody on the red carpet wearing anything by them? How many custom H&M gowns do we really need to see in one night? It can’t hurt to experiment with something different. In fact it’s what everyone who loves fashion is longing for. Take for instance how everyone went crazy over Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala. It was mainly because she was wearing a different designer from the usual and spotlighting a designer whose work embodied that year’s theme.
Next year I hope to see The Met Gala starting to be The Met again, returning to its glory years of influencing pop culture and inspiring those watching like only The Met can do. I hope the theme is something that will force designers, stylists and celebrities to think outside of the box and challenge themselves. I hope it is less about having as many people as possible with over 5 million Instagram followers on the red carpet and more about the fashion. Less about highlighting the same well know designers and more about allowing opportunities for talented passionate designers to shine too.
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A young South African woman working my way up the fashion food chain. Asking more and more questions with every step I climb. Twitter: @red__mos
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