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Met Gala 2023 Recap: Honouring Karl Lagerfeld

The Met Gala, which falls on the first Monday in May, was dedicated to Karl Lagerfeld this year. Guests presented spectacular interpretations of his unique style.

FASHION 04/05/2023
Fifi Abou Dib

Knock-knock, here comes the first Monday of May, and of course, the first Monday of May sees the most anticipated fashion event of the year. On this evening, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosts its themed Met Gala. This exclusive party aims to raise funds to cover the costs of the Costume Institute’s annual exhibition. So there will be a lot of talk about money, as the rates for one of the most expensive dinners in the world have gone up again: $50,000 per guest (up from $35,000 in 2022) and $300,000 if the sponsor reserves a whole table. And even if you are willing to pay, you still need to be validated by Anna Wintour, the powerful editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and chairperson of the Met Gala. Every year, celebrities from film, television, music, sports, fashion and more make up the guestlist. Before D-Day, the event is surrounded by ultimate secrecy. The theme is revealed to the public in January of the same year. It is decided by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, in agreement with Anna Wintour. The co-chairs of the 2023 edition of the Met Gala are: Penélope Cruz, Michaela Coel, Roger Federer and Dua Lipa.

This year, the Costume Institute exhibition is dedicated to Karl Lagerfeld under the title “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty”. In parallel, the dress code of the Met Gala is: “In honor of Karl”. Far from the extravagance of previous years, including the 2019 edition dedicated to Camp, the note of the evening was rather quiet, although glamorous. Karl Lagerfeld is all about black and white, black and cream, black and beige, with chains, an abundance of pearls, camellias (for Chanel) or rhinestones. They were also glimpses of the past, imperial Austria, Belle Époque, or Rock revisited. In his personal universe, we find black leather, white high collars, a ponytail tied with a black velvet ribbon, chains, biker mittens, dark sunglasses, the sharp silhouette of Hedi Slimane for which he forced himself, in the early 2000s, to lose 42 kg (92.5 pounds) … and his Burmese cat, Choupette.

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There was not one, but several Karls. Nicknamed “The Chameleon”, the rival of Yves Saint-Laurent made his debut at Patou and Balmain before becoming, in 1965, the artistic director of Fendi, from which he never stood far. In 1983, he gave Chanel a new lease on life. Among other things, he shortened the famous tweed suit, which was revolutionary in its time, but was beginning to look granny-ish.

In parallel, he launched his eponymous house and directed the creation of Chloé. That’s at least six houses, six different identities to be interpreted by other designers for this edition of the Met Gala.

“Doing” Karl obviously involved taking the time to dive into his archives, to draw some nuggets of his vocabulary, or simply bring out one of his iconic pieces.

Here are the most celebrated looks from this extraordinary evening:

Choupette:

  • Jared Leto came to the event dressed as a giant Choupette. Okay, it’s not an actual piece of clothing. At first, guests thought he was the mascot for the evening, but he quickly removed the head, wearing it in front of him like Hamlet with the skull of Yorick. Underneath the faux-fur, he wore a flowing black satin ensemble, tight pants, tunic and cape with crystal embroidered shoulders.
  • A little less literal was Doja Cat, in an Oscar de la Renta gown embroidered with 350,000 silver beads and pearls, with a train of gradient white feathers and a fully embroidered hood framing her face with cat ears. The embellished dress took 5,000 hours of work to create. The finishing touch was a prosthetic cat nose.
  • Rapper Lil Nas X went a little more straightforward, with a thong, platform shoes and silver body paint, face makeup with glued beads and whiskers.
  • The prize for the most subtle influence from Choupette goes to Anna Wintour. Appearing on the arm of actor Bill Nighy, the president of the event wore a long, flared jacket over a white satin skirt. In the intricate embroidery of the jacket, which at first glance resembled a floral pattern, discreetly walked, in trompe l’oeil, cats in silver sequins.

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Archival pieces:

  • Co-chair, singer Dua Lipa showed up in a bridal dress, Chanel 1992, first worn by model Claudia Schiffer on the arm of Karl Lagerfeld and lent out by the House for the night. It was a cream-coloured midi dress with a medieval pointed corset, stitched with black and a flared skirt. Dua Lipa wore a diamond as big as the Met, a jewel from Tiffany, just as the house has opened a flagship store on Fifth Avenue.
  • Actress Nicole Kidman walked the red carpet (which was actually beige with red and blue lines) wearing a 2004 Chanel Haute Couture archival gown, all pastel pink feathers, from the Karl Lagerfeld era. She had previously worn this dress in an iconic Chanel No. 5 ad from the same year, directed by Baz Luhrmann.
  • Naomi Campbell wore a dress from the Chanel spring summer 2010 collection. A long greedy pink drape falling from the shoulder on a bustier in silver metallic elements whose pattern was repeated on the edges of the dress.

Tributes:

  • One of the most dramatic interpretations of Karl Lagerfeld’s style was the gown of the evening’s co-chair, Michaela Coel. Dotted with gold brooches on dark brown organza, the small train sheath was encrusted with 130,000 crystals. Schiaparelli’s signature surrealism inspired symbols, like golden stylized lips, sun, and sculpted toe shoes were omnipresent.
  • Also dressed by Schiaparelli, Kim Kardashian was a cascade of pearls from head to toe. Rows and rows of pearls formed her bustier and skirt, over a beige corset that molded her legendary shape.
  • Arriving two hours into the evening, pop star Rihanna consoled guests for their wait with an incredible white bridal Valentino dress with a long train. As a tribute to Karl, she wore an oversized stole entirely made of giant camellias.

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The big miss:

  • But where has Balenciaga gone? Since the bad press it received from an ad campaign involving children, has the brand gone back into the shadows? Only François-Henri Pinault was seen in a Balenciaga custom made-to-measure tuxedo suit, and Vittoria Ceretti in the Balenciaga Look 47 from the 50th Couture collection.

The lesson of inclusiveness:

  • Karl Lagerfeld has been hugely criticized for his preference of skinny models and his harshness towards chubby people. This Met Gala in his honor gave a chance to people of all sizes and shapes to show off their elegance and beauty. Skinniness is no longer the rule in fashion, and that’s fine.

The Met Gala as seen by the Yung team

We asked some of the (oh so!) talented members of the Yung team how they would have interpreted the Met Gala 2023 theme. Sandra Yeghiazarian told us, “I would go for the classic Coco Chanel suit with a twist.” Nujoud Oweis said, “I would look at Karl’s archives and his personal style and add a touch of colour to create a juxtaposition between my maximalist nature and his cool, classic aesthetic”. Omaia Jallad added, “I am a huge fan of Mademoiselle Chanel, her timeless fusion of simplicity and elegance! I would definitely wear a vintage Chanel suit with a corset, where vintage and modern meet halfway, with a touch of masculinity and femininity.” As for Saif Hidayah, who wields the sewing machine and typewriter with equal dexterity, he says he would have worn vintage Chanel with chains – an inspiration from the 1992 Chanel fashion show. Or maybe something inspired by Lagerfeld’s early days at Jean Patou. “It’s not so much about an image that comes to mind, I’d say it’s the overall vibe and flair of his collections at Patou. From the oval necklines to the pleats and belts. Many people don’t realize that it was KL’s time at Patou that inspired his career,” added the connoisseur.

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How about you? Share with us your own take on Karl Lagerfeld’s style and visit our Fashion pages for all the industry news.


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