As Sudha Reddy’s car pulled into Fifth Avenue outside the Met Museum for the 2021 Met Gala on September 13, the Hyderabad-based philanthropist and socialite found herself quietly chanting, “It’s showtime!” in excitement. As she steps onto the seemingly-endless red carpet that ascends to the entrance of the reputed institute, she is engulfed by the flashing lights of press photographers and a flurry of questions asking who she is wearing tonight.
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Owing to the pandemic and no 2020 edition, this year’s Met Gala – formerly known as Costume Institute Gala or the Costume Institute Benefit – certainly felt different for everyone involved; from organiser Anna Wintour and the designers, to the high-profile attendees and even the spectators watching the red carpet showcase at home.
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In the spirit of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections, the gala’s theme was ‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’. For Sudha, this theme meant “a celebration of the concept of independence. I’m all for empowerment and independence at a personal and a professional level, and I feel independence is the greatest gift one can give themselves,” she tells The Hindu after the event.
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Known as ‘fashion’s biggest night out’, the Met Gala does not waste its time on your run-of-the-mill red carpet event but rather a smorgasbord of style on steroids. Selected fashion designers link up with famous figures to design an entirely custom ensemble that pushes the creative envelope. Most outfits that end up at the Met, would be considered outlandish on a regular red carpet.
‘It takes an army’
While getting ready for the event, Sudha posted to her Instagram Stories with the caption, ‘It takes an army.’ And it sure does for an event like the Met Gala.
Sudha worked with long-time friends and collaborator Falguni Shane Peacock for her glittering ensemble that certainly turned some heads. The dress was inspired by the American Revolution and took 250-plus hours of handwork. Constructed around a bright gold sculptured gown, the dramatic four-metre train has a medley of colours borrowed from the American flag and is accented with 3D embellishments of Swarovski crystals, sequins and bugle beads.
“My only brief to them was to adhere to the gala’s theme but retain a sense of Indianness to the whole outfit and I think they did an amazing job,” Sudha recalls, “I wanted to imbibe a lot of Indianness in my look and since Indians love over-the-top as a concept, I requested Falguni Shane Peacock to be as forward-thinking as possible.”
The last month before the Met Gala is known as the panic month for anyone involved and Sudha says it was certainly “crazy hectic” for her. She had multiple fittings with the designers, having been involved in the whole process right from the texture of the materials to the kind of embellishments. She adds, “They are not just my designers but they are also family now.”
The dress was not the only dazzler in the ensemble; Sudha opted for an eye-catching ear cuff with diamond-encrusted stars that was inspired by the stars in the American flag. The piece, designed by Farah Ali Khan, was crafted in 18-carat gold with 35 carats of bezel-set VVS diamonds that started from her cheek and extended right up to her hairline.
The love for all gilded things did not stop there; Sudha’s glam team made sure that while her hair pulled back into a sleek bun, her make-up channelled Cleopatra thanks to an illuminated finish with a bold smokey eye.
The event gave Sudha a chance to meet some of the luminaries of the creative arts industry. While she looked forward to meeting Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez, Sudha revels in her interactions with designer Donatella Versace, musician Lil Nas X, supermodels Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, amongst others. “All I wanted to do was shine the light on the brown renaissance and how Indians have arrived on the world stage in every sphere practically,” she sums up.
The 2021 Met Gala was found wanting in its South Asian representation. Regular attendees such as Isha Ambani, actor Deepika Padukone, content creator Liza Koshy and actor-producer Priyanka Chopra did not make an appearance, understandably due to the pandemic. But familiar faces such as Mindy Kaling was present this year. “I feel South Asian representation is still very marginalised at these events,” Sudha avers, “I would have liked to see more South Asians and Indians at the event as I believe Indians are making a mark in every field across the world and they need to be celebrated at such global outings.”
The wife of billionaire Megha Krishna Reddy and reportedly the Director of Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), Sudha, points out, “Given how our lives have drastically changed post the pandemic, I would have also loved to see participation from personalities from the field of medicine, law, business, social service etc and not just celebrities from the world of fashion and entertainment at such events.”