On May 1, 2023, the annual Met Gala took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The theme was Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty. Celebrities from around the world came to the gala dressed “In Honor of Karl,” which ranged from outfits 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 the theme of the Gala.
Lagerfeld was a German fashion designer who became very popular over the years, due to his position as creative director at Chanel until his death in 2019. Despite all the great achievements in his life, Lagerfeld’s many controversies l outweigh the good ones. During his time at Chanel, he repeatedly appropriated cultures with his designs. A model with no affiliation to Muslim culture paraded in a dress he designed, embroidered with a holy Muslim text. After people talked about it, he claimed he didn’t realize what the text meant. On top of that, Lagerfeld appropriated native culture at a big show in Dallas. The models wore white feathered headdresses, native prints and beads, and shiny gold face paint in an effort to make them look angelic and chic. Lagerfeld and Chanel continually stole cultural tradition, stripped all of its history and meaning, and then released it to the world just to sell it for a fortune.
Not only was Lagerfeld culturally insensitive, but he also made many insensitive comments throughout his career. Like most of the fashion industry, Lagerfeld only accepted very thin models. “Nobody wants to see curvy women,” he said in a 2009 interview with Focus magazine. His fatphobia was terrible, but people never called him out on it.
As more models of all body types begin to surface and gain recognition, figures like Lagerfeld continue to rule the industry. His views on women, particularly body image and size standards, were outdated and offensive, as was his criticism of the #MeToo movement. In 2018, when the #MeToo movement was new and flourishing, Lagerfeld was accused by three models of sexual harassment. In response to the accusations, he told fashion magazine Numéro: “If you don’t want your pants pulled, don’t become a model. Join a convent, there will always be a place for you in the convent.
For a prominent figure to say such a blatant statement is horrifying. It was shocking that the Met Gala chose to highlight him, of all people, given his history. Everything he did was the opposite of the progress the fashion industry is trying to make.
Fortunately, Lagerfeld’s controversies have not gone unmentioned. Celebrity Jameela Jamil openly criticized the gala theme. “Hollywood and fashion said aloud the quiet part when many famous feminists chose to celebrate at the highest level, a man who was so publicly cruel to women, fat people, immigrants and survivors of assault. sexual,” she wrote on Instagram the day after the event. Jamil’s point was crystal clear. The fashion industry is hypocritical, promoting feminism and body positivity when it suits the industry, then turning around and pulling off a crazy stunt like the 2023 Met Gala.
This incredibly famous and influential gala, broadcast around the world, is expected to grow in the future. Instead, he chooses to put all the credit on figures such as Lagerfeld. This says a lot about Hollywood and, therefore, the values of the fashion industry, and the communities it chooses to honor.
We cannot have a Met Gala that ignores or even condones acts of sexism and racism. By making Lagerfeld the theme, they basically condoned all of his inexcusable behavior throughout his life. The Gala did not apologize or acknowledge the mistake it made in honoring such a problematic character. If the fashion industry wants to stay relevant, it needs to stop giving props to the raw past and start focusing on the future.
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