While we Brits were busy sleeping off our bank holiday hangovers last night, life was looking distinctly rosier over in New York, as fashion’s elite gathered at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for its annual 1st-Monday-of-May bash, the Met Gala.
It’s easy to watch red carpet shows and not really know why all these glossy, wealthy people have come together for a schmooze; we’d be lying if we said our interest in red-carpet events extends beyond gawping at the lush dresses and playing Fashion Police with our flatmates. But if you’re interested in fashion in any capacity, the Met Gala is actually pretty intriguing, as it’s a fundraising event for the Costume Institute, the Met’s fashion department – and the only curatorial department that needs to fund itself, hence the philanthropical Met Gala shenanigans. The event, chaired by Anna Wintour since 1999, is like the Oscar’s of the fashion industry, but without the awards. If they can get on the waiting list for the intensely vetted guest list, attendees can purchase a ticket to the event for $30,000 (or splash out $275,000 on a table!). Obviously, many celebs come as guests of brands, so don’t need to pay for a ticket; this year, for example, Alexa Chung, Natalia Vodianova, Emma Roberts and more came as guests of Diane von Furstenberg, and the likes of Nikki Minaj and Jourdan Dunn represented H&M.
This year’s Met Gala theme was the work of Rei Kawakubo, the inimitable brains behind Comme Des GarÃ§ons and the subject of the Met’s spring exhibit, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des GarÃ§ons: Art of the In-Between. The Japanese designer founded Comme in 1969, and is unique in her rejection of traditional fashion codes and tired tropes; Kawakubo does not feel the urge to make flattering clothes, instead designing in a manner which challenges our preconceptions about what beauty really is. With their unconventional cuts, off-kilter fabrics and exaggerated silhouettes, Kawakubo’s designs sit somewhere between the realms of fashion and art, making her an excellent subject for the Met.
Celebs aren’t required to dress up in line with the theme but, being a fashion-focused event backed by Condé Nast and names like Farfetch and Maison Valentino, this is advised. It was a shame, then, to see the majority of attendees completely disregard the theme. Everyone looked stunning, of course – highlights included Hailey Baldwin slaying in a frothy, tiered Carolina Herrera two-piece, Zendaya looking exotic and magical in a full-skirted Dolce & Gabbana gown, and the Jenner sisters in predictably bejewelled, mostly see-through dresses – but not many people seemed keen to go all-out with Comme Des GarÃ§ons-level eccentricity.
So we have to applaud those who did have the balls to take on the theme. Rihanna, who has become the unofficial queen of Met Gala extravagance, outdid everyone with a 3D Comme Des GarÃ§ons design, constructed from layers of floral fabric. Ri wasn’t the only star to represent Comme Des GarÃ§ons, as Helen Lasichanh, Pharrell’s wife, turned up in a sculptural red jumpsuit (which has since sparked a thousand memes from people who think that she lost the plot when picking out a theme-appropriate outfit), and the iconic Michelle Lamy was dressed by her designer husband Rick Owens, who, like Kawakubo, is known for his boundary-pushing clothes (or pieces of art… it’s subjective) which play with proportion.
Other stand-outs, who deserve a gold star for embracing the theme for the night, include Katy Perry, who wore red, veiled custom Maison Martin Margiela (if you’re thinking there was a colour theme going on, you would be correct; red is one of Kawabuko’s favourite hues, and has provided the backdrop for many of her most memorable power pieces), and Claire Danes stunned in a dramatic, pirate-like shirt-cum-dress from Monse.
It’s the Met Gala, after all – if there is any occasion to go all-out with the most fantastical, bizarre, dramatic, couture-like clothing, surely it’s now?