On May 1, 2023, the annual Met Gala was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The theme was Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty. Celebrities from all over the world came to the Gala dressed “In Honor of Karl,” which varied from dress and attire simply inspired by his style to celebrities actually dressed in his famous designs. While the outfits worn were admired, Lagerfeld was a very problematic figure, and he should not have been made the theme of the Gala.
Lagerfeld was a German fashion designer that became very popular over the years, due to his position as creative director at Chanel until he died in 2019. Despite all of the large achievements in his lifetime, Lagerfeld’s many controversies outweigh the good. During his time at Chanel, he repeatedly appropriated cultures with his designs. A model with no affiliation to Muslim culture was sent down the runway in a dress he designed, embroidered with a sacred Muslim text. After people spoke up about it, he claimed he didn’t realize what the text meant. In addition to this, Lagerfeld appropriated Indigenous culture at a large show in Dallas. Models wore white feathered headdresses, Native prints, and beadwork, along with shiny gold face paint in an effort to make them look angelic and chic. Lagerfeld and Chanel continuously stole cultural tradition, stripped all of the history and meaning from it, and then broadcasted it to the world just to sell it for a fortune.
Not only was Lagerfeld culturally insensitive, he also made many insensitive comments throughout his career. Like most of the fashion industry, Lagerfeld was only accepting of very thin models. “No one wants to see curvy women,” he had stated in an interview with the Focus magazine in 2009. His fatphobia was appalling, but people never called him out for it.
While more and more models of all body types are beginning to surface and get recognition, figures like Lagerfeld continue to have a grasp on the industry. His views on women, specifically around body image and size standards, were outdated and offensive, but also his criticism of the #MeToo movement. In 2018, when the #MeToo movement was new and thriving, Lagerfeld was accused by three models of sexual harassment. In response to the accusations, he said to the fashion magazine Numéro, “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model. Join a nunnery, there will always be a place for you in the convent.”
For a prominent figure to say such an egregious statement is horrifying. It was shocking that the Met Gala chose to highlight him, of all people, considering his history. Everything that he did was the polar opposite of the progress that the fashion industry is trying to make.
Luckily, the controversies of Lagerfeld were not left unspoken. Celebrity Jameela Jamil was outwardly critical of the gala theme. “Hollywood and fashion said the quiet part out loud when a lot of famous feminists chose to celebrate at the highest level, a man who was so publicly cruel to women, to fat people, to immigrants and to sexual assault survivors,” she wrote on Instagram the day after the event. Jamil’s point was crystal clear. The fashion industry is hypocritical, in promoting feminism and body positivity when it’s convenient for the industry, and then turning around and pulling a crazy stunt like the 2023 Met Gala.
This incredibly famous and influential gala, broadcasted all over the world, should be progressing into the future. Instead, it chooses to put all the recognition on figures such as Lagerfeld. That says a lot about Hollywood and, subsequently, the fashion industry’s values, and which communities it chooses to honor.
We can’t have a Met Gala that disregards or even condone acts of sexism and racism. By making Lagerfeld the theme of it, they essentially condoned all of his inexcusable behavior throughout his life. The Gala didn’t issue an apology, or recognize the mistake it made in honoring such a problematic figure. If the fashion industry wants to stay relevant, it needs to stop giving props to the crude past and start focusing on the future.