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Why is the Met Gala the ‘Superbowl of Fashion’? 

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At this year’s Met Gala, the red carpet was a sea of black, and white, and pearls, in many forms and iterations; from sequins, to chiffon, to lace, to kilometres of camellias. It was an homage to German-born, European-bred designer Karl Lagerfeld, who was at the helm of Chanel for years, bringing back from the brink of near extinction that mythical fashion house founded in 1910 and singlehandedly led by a keen business woman, the powerful and inventive Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel

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Karl Lagerfeld, Omni-Creator 

The theme of the 2023 edition of the Met Gala, the black-tie fundraising event for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City, was “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” 

A longtime supporter of the Met Gala, Lagerfeld had a career that spanned decades and postings at a few storied fashion houses, including Balmain, Chloé, Fendi, and, of course, Chanel. His position at Chanel, as creative director from 1983 until his death at age 85 in 2019, cemented the legacy of this luxury brand as a fashion leader. Lagerfeld also launched his own eponymous label in 1984, a brand that was later picked up by Tommy Hilfiger in 2004. 

The ultra-erudite (he had amassed one of the largest personal libraries in the world, with over 300,000 titles ranging from fashion design, photography, to art history and highly collectible first editions) and super-connected designer (he was one of Twitter’s early adopters) elevated street trends to the haute couture, and brought the idea of luxury to the masses: From designing surf boards for Chanel to casting the first black male model on the house’s runway in 2018, cleverly merging hip-hop culture and high fashion. Some say he was a democratic snob.

Lagerfeld was famous for his innovative designs, his lavish and theatrical fashion shows, and his branding genius, cultivating his persona as “the Kaiser” while styling his white hair in a ponytail, accessorized with sunglasses, fingerless gloves and, at times, a fan.

Safe to say that Lagerfeld’s legacy on fashion is massive. 

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A Gala Like No Other 

The present-day Met Gala is a far cry from the original event from 1948, a sober fundraiser dinner (tickets were 50 dollars each then, not $50,000 like this year) organized for the newly founded Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. In a city known for its many musicals and theatre productions, the Costume Institute was a precious resource where theatre designers would turn to, looking for inspiration to create new productions. 

Over the first few decades of its existence, the Gala was simply one of many annual benefits held for charitable institutions.

When Vogue Magazine’s editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland became consultant to the Costume Institute in 1972, the Gala began morphing into a much more glam event attended by celebrities by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Elton John, Cher, and Madonna.

In 1995, Anna Wintour, the powerful Global Editorial Director of Vogue, assumed the chairmanship of the Institute. That’s when the Met Gala really became the most sought-after fashion event of the year. Forget about a front row seat at Chanel, the Met Gala is where everything happens, darling! Anna Wintour’s guest list grew to include celebrities from the world of fashion, entertainment, business, sports, and politics who would eventually grace the pages of Vogue.

The Gala’s impact is massive. In 2022, it raised $17.4 million for the Costume Institute and generated more media impact value (a PR measure) than the Super Bowl. For fashion, there is no greater showcase. In 2019, when he was the Louis Vuitton chief executive, Michael Burke called the Met Gala “the pinnacle of our business.”

Professor Natasha Degen from the Fashion Institute of Technology and the author of the forthcoming book “Merchants of Style: Art and Fashion After Warhol,” argues in an Op-Ed published in the New York Times that “the fanfare surrounding the event takes centre stage: celebrity selfies, red-carpet gossip and attention-seeking fashion stunts. Whether attendees know anything about the show they are there to honour is beside the point.”

According to her, the Met Gala is the most high-profile example of the accelerating convergence of art and fashion. And to survive and thrive in a dictatorship of clout, where success is measured in the currency of likes and followers, fashion brands must “aim to become cultural brands with a global audience,” like Bernard Arnault, the CEO and chairman of LVMH, the fashion and luxury goods conglomerate that own Louis Vuitton, reminds us. That would explain the appointment of Pharrell Williams as the new men’s creative director at Louis Vuitton. 

But enough about the philosophy of current fashion successes, let’s move on to more exciting things! 

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Best Looks on the Red Carpet of 2023

Since Chanel was the fashion house most closely associated with Karl Lagerfeld, there were tons of interpretations on the red carpet of the label’s most iconic elements: tweed, pearls, chains, camellias, lace and tulle, in a combination of black and white. 

As for the homages to Karl himself, some guests wore yoke pristine white shirts, silver hair, cigarette black pants, and fingerless, open gloves. 

Here are some of our favourite red carpet looks from the Met Gala 2023. 

The best look of the night, bar none, goes to Cardi B, who wore a ballgown with a black super wide skirt embellished with camellias (Chanel’s signature flower), a yoke sleeveless shirt inspired by Karl Lagerfeld’s signature look, and a platinum wig embellished with a velvet headband, reminiscent of so many classic Chanel looks.

Kim Kardashian went with a Schiaparelli draped skirt and top made from over 50,000 freshwater pearls and over 16,000 crystals. And probably a lot of Skims foundations, for a perfectly smooth and snatched look. 

Spectacularly tall and slender, Kendall Jenner wore a minimal, black sequin Marc Jacobs leotard with flowy sleeves and towering lace up platform boots.

One of Karl Lagerfeld’s favourite models and close friend Cara Delevingne (looking healthy and focused, unlike at last year’s Met Gala), wore an homage to Karl fit combining a white Oxford shirt-inspired mini with black leather leg warmers. And totally fab silver shag hair! 

Dua Lipa, one of the night’s co-chair, went shopping in the Chanel archives and chose the bridal gown from the  Fall-Winter 1992 Haute Couture collection, originally modelled on the runway by Claudia Schiffer. It was accessorized by a never-seen-before massive diamond necklace from Tiffany & Co. weighing in at more than 200 carats.

Lil Nas X, dripping crystals on the red carpet, went for a head-to-toe jewel-encrusted look comprised of over 200,000 silver crystals applied by legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath, reminiscent of the look she had created for Doja Cat for Schiaparelli during Paris Fashion Week in March.

Choupette, Karl’s adored cat, made multiple appearances on the red carpet. First as Doja Cat (with impeccable catlike prosthetic makeup) and then as Jared Leto wearing a full-mascot suit with beautiful silky fur. 

Unlike the evening’s guests, which were then ushered inside the museum for a lavish dinner (no cameras allowed), the real-life Choupette probably ate her dinner alone at home in Paris from her three Goyard dishes. According to Mr. Lagerfeld: “one for water, one for her little croquette and one for her pâté.” Ah, quelle vie de chat!… 

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