Here’s Why People Are Angry About 2023’s Met Gala Theme, Karl Lagerfeld

Fashion’s night of nights is here once again, and this time, it’s honoring the designer Karl Lagerfeld.

The biggest event in the fashion calendar sees VIP upon VIP flock to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Each year, the prestigious night comes with a theme. Most recently, “Gilded Glamour” took center stage with in line with the exhibition ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion,’ transforming the red carpet into a sea of shiny gold and opulent jewels. 

But the Met Gala isn’t without its controversy, though. The lack of BIPOC designers has been an ongoing issue, which is only accentuated by the recent American themes; there are mixed opinions about wearing historical artifacts, and performative activism continues to spark questions of authenticity. 

Audiences at home seem to have become more critical and skeptical about the extravagant displays of wealth and fame that we used to laud over without a second thought. It makes sense — a globally watched event with millions of eyeballs often acts as a boiling pot for systemic issues to rise to the surface: racism, classism, gender inequality and fatphobia, to name a few. This upcoming Met Gala is no exception, with outrage surfacing in the lead-up to tonight’s event.

What is the theme of 2023’s Met Gala?

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (C) poses backstage with models (L-R) Karen Mulder, Carla Bruni, Nadja Auermann, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and Helena Christensen during the Chloe Ready to Wear Spring/Summer 1995 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on October 10, 1994 in Paris, France.(Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Sygma via Getty Images)

The theme of this year’s Costume Institute exhibition is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty, with attendees asked to wear clothing in honor of the designer to the Met Gala. This is not the first time the Met has done a designer-themed exhibition and gala, though, with designers like Charles James, Rei Kawakubo, and Alexander McQueen having being honored.

At the time of this year’s announcement, Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said, “Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most captivating, prolific and recognizable forces in fashion and culture, known as much for his extraordinary designs and tireless creative output as for his legendary persona. This immersive exhibition will unpack his singular artistic practice, inviting the public to experience an essential part of Lagerfeld’s boundless imagination and passion for innovation.”

Why is Karl Lagerfeld problematic?

Over his 65 years in fashion, working with houses such as Chanel, Fendi and Chloé, Lagerfeld built quite the reputation. Not only did he make waves in changing the course of fashion with his innovative designs and theatrical flourishes, but his less-than-savory opinions on issues spanning sexual assault, race, and size tarnished his image.

“This man… was indeed, supremely talented, but used his platform is such a distinctly hateful way, mostly towards women, so repeatedly and up until the last years of his life, showing no remorse, offering no atonement, no apology, no help to groups he attacked… there was no explanation for his cruel outbursts,” Jameela Jamil said on Instagram.

“Sorry, but no. This isn’t the ’90s. We didn’t fight all this shit just to throw it all away because some white guy made some pretty clothes for people’s skinny faves… come on now.”

On fatphobia

Lagerfeld was outspoken about his belief that runway models should be sample sized. “No one wants to see curvy women,” he told Focus in 2009. Lagerfeld also dubbed supermodel Heidi Klum “too heavy” and said that Adele was “a little too fat.”

He defended fashion’s obsession with thin women, calling fatness “dangerous and very bad for the health.” When asked about Chanel’s obligation to represent “slightly healthier models” as opposed to “very thin models,” Lagerfeld brushed off the question and labeled it as a “bore” and “ridiculous” before touting the dangers of obesity.

On the #MeToo movement

Lagerfeld famously disapproved of the #MeToo movement. In 2018, a year before his death, he said, “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent.”

“What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened. Not to mention the fact there are no prosecution witnesses,” he said.

Lagerfeld also allegedly sent flowers to former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn after he was accused of sexual assault. “They all do it in the political world. They get horny from politics, from power. And he had unbelievable charms. He is really charming. He’s fun, he’s great. He’s a sweet guy — as long as you’re not a woman,” Lagerfeld said.

On queerness

As a gay man himself, Lagerfeld held contradicting and stifling thoughts about the LGBTQIA+ community.

Back in 2010, he told Vice that he was against the idea of gay marriage. “I’m against it for a very simple reason: In the ’60s, they all said we had the right to the difference. And now, suddenly, they want a bourgeois life,” he said.

“For me, it’s difficult to imagine — one of the papas at work and the other at home with the baby. How would that be for the baby? I don’t know. I see more lesbians married with babies than I see boys married with babies. And I also believe more in the relationship between mother and child than in that between father and child,” he said.

When is the Met Gala?

The Met Gala is on May 1, 2023. The Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty exhibition will be on display at The Met’s Costume Institute from May 5 to July 16, 2023.

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