It's the first Monday in May: Welcome to Met Gala mania.
With a live stream available when the evening gets underway, the world’s most fashionable fundraiser takes on one of the world’s most prolific — and controversial — designers, the late Karl Lagerfeld, as the starry party’s theme.
So how would the man of the hour, who died in 2019, feel about all the hullabaloo? Lagerfeld was a student of history, to be sure, but his eyes were forever on the future. “Karl never wanted to have a retrospective when he was alive. He felt that it was funereal. He made the point that (Cristóbal) Balenciaga and (Coco) Chanel never had them when they were alive,” said William Middleton, who wrote the biography Paradise Now: The Extraordinary Life of Karl Lagerfeld.
So what about now? “He believed very much in fashion history, so he’s a part of fashion history now. I don't think he would have had a problem with it,” Middleton surmised. Others aren't so sure.
Caroline Lebar worked with Lagerfeld for 35 years, rising to senior vice president of image and communications for his eponymous brand. Lagerfeld loved the Met, but he always said: “’I’m not an artist, I’m a fashion maker,’” Lebar said on the company’s site. “He didn’t think his work belonged in a museum. Anna Wintour also mentioned this when she made the announcement about the theme,” Lebar explained.
The invitation-only gala earned $17.4 million last year for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, a self-funding department with a budget dependent on the A-list affair. The price of attending went up this year to $300,000 for a table and $50,000 for a single ticket.
Companies and brands buy tables and host many of the roughly 400 guests expected this year from fashion, film, music, theatre, sports, tech and social media. They were asked to dress “in honor of Karl” by gala mastermind Wintour, a close Lagerfeld friend who first signed on to the event in 1995 and took over the helm in 1999.
Fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert thought up the Met Gala back in 1948 as a fundraiser for the newly founded Costume Institute. It was a dinner held elsewhere. The idea is to celebrate the opening of the institute’s big exhibition each year, this time called “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”
American fashion was last year’s vibe. It followed gilded glamour and white tie. Camp was the theme in 2019, producing what is considered one of the wackiest displays of dress by the celebrity crowd. Katy Perry wore a chandelier, then slipped into a hamburger outfit. Lady Gaga did a four-layer strip tease on the Met's Grand Staircase and Jared Leto carried a stage version of his own head.
Dressing to the Lagerfeld theme could be a breeze for guests with stylists able to source the best vintage pieces from the fashion houses where he worked: Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Jean Patou, Balmain, his own brand and more.
This year’s five hosts include Wintour, as usual, along with Michaela Coel, longtime Chanel ambassador Penélope Cruz, recently retired tennis superstar Roger Federer and Dua Lipa.