An Ode To Karl Lagerfeld: The Met Gala’s Controversial Theme
Black and white picture of late German designer Karl Lagerfeld on his famous suit and black sunglass look.
The Met Gala 2023


Karl Lagerfeld’s life was celebrated in glamorous monochrome on the Met Gala red carpet this Monday. Vogue editor Anna Wintour decided this year’s theme would be an ode to the late German designer, and attendees did not disappoint in their attempts to attribute their fanciful gowns to his work and life. Lagerfeld acted as a designer, creative director and photographer, and worked under the names of Chanel, Fendi and Chloé as well as his own namesake brand. He was truly a front-runner in the industry for 65 years until his passing in 2019, and celebrity’s and fashion houses sought inspiration from each and every stage of his lengthy career to inspire their lavish looks for this long-awaited evening. Karl’s fashion legacy was however tainted with contention, as he wasn’t fearful in sharing his traditional, and sometimes derogatory, views about the world of fashion. Nevertheless, Karl did make an indelible impression on the industry, and the looks in his honour certainly epitomized this headstrong impact that he had. 

Karl Lagerfeld’s image in itself was iconic. Renowned for his sleek white ponytail, fingerless gloves, and dark shades, these striking monochrome fashion influences were definitely rife on the red carpet this year. Many envisaged a plethora of Karl’s descending on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and they weren’t too far off…

Jeremy Pope nailed it with a custom flowing gown from Balmain that lay Karl’s portrait right across the carpet steps.

Karl’s bedazzled face also ran through Delfine Deletterez’s glitzy FENDI gown.

And Lily Collins chose to spell out her ode to Karl, lettering his name across her tulle train.

Others paid tribute to Karl more subtly, employing suiting and tweed that was very typical both of his own image, and many of his historic Chanel designs. This year saw a brilliant of blend of more masculine suit detailing paired with effeminate, grandiose silhouettes. The effect was a beautiful harmony of clean tailoring meets fairy tale-esque gowns. Thom Browne arguably stole the show with a variety of looks that characterized this idea.

Sora Choi wore a dramatic tweed-suit-turned-dress by Thom Browne.

Jenna Ortega wore a shorter and cropped version of the similar aesthetic.

But it was Janelle Monae who struck gold with an incredible, fun mix suit that layered over a hooped dress. Janelle truly brought the theatre to the carpet.

Karl’s white Burmese cat, Choupette, who had a been a consistent accessory to his image was also celebrated on Monday, with daring feline looks taking centre stage. 

Jared Leto quite literally became a giant Choupette.

Whilst Doja Cat also predictably adopted the cat-mania trend. This time, instead of dripping in the red diamonds of Schiaparelli’s devil, we saw her dripping in the white beads of with Oscar de la Renta’s sultry cat gown.

Some guests also drew inspiration from some of Karl’s notable vintage designs.

 We saw Chanel brides from the likes of Dua Lipa to Penelope Cruz. 

As well as a selection of surrealism inspired looks, from Vanessa Kirby, and Karlie Kloss, emulating Karl’s work from when he was at Chloé which was distinctly playful. The surrealism trend worked just as well in 2023.  

Pearls also had a major moment, with the like of Kim Kardashian and Zanna Rassi. 

Despite the impressive execution, the theme in Karl’s honour did warrant some criticism in the lead up to the event. Karl Lagerfeld, had a talent for image-making, but also a talent for offending. He hasn’t always been the most loveable of characters, and has been caught up in controversial comments that left him tagged as fat phobic and anti-feminist – two issues that have diseased the fashion industry since its inception. Most famously, Karl was also becoming an enemy of the Me Too Movement when he suggested that models who didn’t want their “pants pulled down” should join a “nunnery” instead. Whilst members of the Model’s Alliance took to the Met Gala steps on Sunday to protest the honouring of such a divisive figure, it-girl supermodels such as Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner weren’t deterred in celebrating a man who likened their choice in career path to conceding to sexual abuse.

Moreover, the Met Gala is, at base level, a celebration of wealthy elitism. Exorbitant and excessive partying and dressing seems to be increasingly distasteful in the modern-day, amidst financial crises and changing social ideology. The fact that vast amounts of the world public are experiencing a hefty recession only exacerbated some uncomfortable ness surrounding this year’s event.

The Met Gala is a celebration of the fashion industry, but the fashion industry isn’t the most reputable of sectors, and has perpetuated itself on the exploitation of workers, the marginalisation of others, and the promotion of rigid interpretations of beauty and perfectionist aesthetics. This pre-existing criticism, coupled with the questionable Karl Lagerfeld branding means this year’s event will likely be open to fiercer public debate in days to come. There certainly does seem to be an unavoidable level of awkwardness in the fact that the fashion industry consistently claims to be modernising, and yet will happily pay homage to distinctly regressive thinkers like Lagerfeld. However much you admire Lagerfeld’s work, and the Met Gala tradition, the dissonance with modern reality cannot be ignored. 

All controversy aside, as purely aesthetic entertainment, the Met Gala fashion this year was tantalising. One can only imagine that Karl Lagerfeld would have adored the scintillating parade of glitz and glam that gathered in New York. Unlike some years, the theme was impeccably sustained throughout the majority of the looks that graced our scenes. Whilst it may not have been in tune with the current times, it was at least unequivocally Karl – rightly, or wrongly, there wasn’t a sweat pant in sight! 

by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine


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