Consider the first Monday in May the fashion industry’s Christmas. Every year on this day, the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts their annual benefit to raise money for the Costume Institute (better known as the fashion department). This night reigns supreme on the fashion calendar, even more so than any runway shows or fashion weeks out there. It’s the one night of the year where trends and gimmick are thrown out the window and it’s only about the fashion. The journey. The art. The first Monday in May is what fashion is and should be, a celebration of a designer’s influence on the industry and reflecting on the bridge between the past and the future of those designs.
This year, Rei Kawakubo will be the honored artist, only the second living designer to be showcased at the Costume Institute (the first being Yves Saint Laurent back in 1983). According to CNN, the Met “will use 150 examples of Kawakubo’s work to explore how the designer has managed to straddle and subvert established dualities (then/now, self/other, clothes/not clothes etc.).” This is one of the more highly anticipated years of the gala and will include every major designer, brand, celebrity, and crazy looks all fashion-obsessed live for, so get ready for A Moment.
So, what is the purpose of the Met Gala?
The Met Gala does several things in one night:
- Raises money for the Costume Institute
- Introduces the summer exhibit
- Showcases the best and most exquisite fashion in the world on one carpet
First off, it is the annual benefit function to raise money for the Costume Institute, the only curatorial department in all the museum that has to fund itself. Secondly, the Met Gala introduces the exhibition that will be on display all summer long in the Costume Institute. The temporary exhibition is one of the most viewed in the world, with millions visiting from all over the world over the next 4 months. And lastly, the Met Gala is the one night of the year that where the clothes don’t just become outfits, they become walking sculptures, fusing creativity with the night’s theme to deliver some of the most outrageous and incredible moments captured in history (I know we’re all still dreaming of that Rihanna moment from 2015). Known as the Oscar night of fashion, expect to see dramatic shapes, headpieces, trains, gowns, and everything in between.
Who is Rei Kawakubo and why is she important?
Rei Kawakubo is a 74-year old Japanese designer who founded the label Comme des Garcon. Ever seen those t-shirts or Converse with that cartoon heart character on them? That’s her design, one of the more marketable ones under her casual luxury line titled Play, of course.
Kawakubo has built her legacy on breaking the rules in fashion, never going for flattering and pretty but instead aiming for interesting and cinematic. She’s known as one of the most influential designers of our time and has solidified herself as one of the most forward thinking individuals in the creative space, not just fashion. Aside from her label Comme des Garcon and Play, she also owns the multi-level conceptual retail store Dover Street Market. While still primarily carrying her line and products, DSM hosts a slew of streetwear hype brands like Gosha Rubinsky, Gucci, Moncler, Balenciaga, and Vetements. If that wasn’t enough, Rei has also collaborated with dozens of the world’s leading brands including Nike, Speedo, H&M, Louis Vuitton, Supreme, Chrome Hearts, and more. Now, the real question is how much can the Met squeeze into the exhibit?
What is Anna Wintour’s role in all of this?
For those unaware of who Anna Wintour is, she is the Editor in Chief of American Vogue and the Artistic Director of its publishing company Conde Nast. In 1999, Wintour became the chairwoman of the gala and has since elevated this once philanthropic effort into a global fashion marketing tool. She is the be-all end-all when it comes to the gala: who gets showcased, who gets invited, the theme, the layout, everything is approved by her. She has helped bring in so much money for the department over her tenure that in 2014, they renamed the main exhibition space as the Anna Wintour Costume Center. This woman is a beast and a damn good one at that.
Who gets invited to the gala?
While the gala is technically a ticketed event (thus should be open to anyone willing to front the $30,000 per ticket to attend), it is invitation-only and is one of the hardest celebrity mixers to get into—even worse than any Oscar party. Your invitation more so depends on your cultural relevance and industry contribution rather than your money. As far as celebrities go and their place in the whole shindig, brands will usually pay for an entire table and invite celebrities to join, usually dressed in their designs of course. But even then, Anna still has to okay who you want to invite to your table, so being selective with your guests is necessary. In years past Beyonce joined Ricardo Tisci, Katy Perry joined Jeremy Scott, Zendaya came with Michael Kors, and Balmain hosted the entire Kardashian klan, naturally.
How do guests decide how to dress? Can they just wear a ball gown and be done?
Yes and no. Every exhibition has a theme and it is customary to dress according to that theme. In 2015, it was China: Through the Looking Glass, which sprouted some culturally inappropriate garbs that made the media a bit weary. In 2016, the theme was Magnus ex Machina, so more of a futuristic and robotic type of vibe (plenty of silver and Tin Man looks). This year, the exhibition is titled “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between.” Take that theme as you want, but my guess is that most attendees will wear an original CDG design, definitely the more nonsensical pieces like the lumpy dress or the red tape skirt. Rei celebrates the art of avant garde and will expect tonight’s attendees to dress with that same no-limits mentality, so get ready to be awed and wowed. FYI, Lady Gaga and Rihanna will SHINE tonight.
Okay, I’m in. I want to see? Where can I watch?
Unfortunately, because inside is such a private event (no guests are allowed to post anything on social media from inside the gala), the only televised option to watch the red carpet will be E! news starting at 7:30PM. However, both Vogue and NYT Style will be live streaming the coverage, with vogue doing a “360 red carpet experience” going from 7-8pm.
I look forward to this night every year and hope you guys have just as much fun following along as I will!
If you ever want to learn more about the Met Gala and the 7 month process it takes to plan fashion’s most extravagant night out, I HIGHLY highly highly suggest watching “The First Monday in May” on Netflix. It’s such a beautiful depiction of what this gala means to fashion and the world and the laborious task it is to present to the world a spectacular look into some of the industry’s greatest artist year after year.
With that, I’ll see you all on Instagram Stories with my thoughts and gasps of the looks throughout the night!