Met Gala is a major fashion event. Known for extravagance and celebrity endorsement, it’s not remembered for its initial goal. But any fashion student who had to search for the “do my assignment for me” service to write an assignment on the Met Gala knows it’s a charitable purpose. That is raising money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

This year’s Met Gala was dedicated to fashion forerunner Karl Lagerfeld. He’s mostly associated with Chanel and Fendi and is known for being opinionated and abrasive. Notably, it’s a rare case for the Met Gala to center the whole event around the designer. As a result, a fundraiser turned into quite an unusual evening. And here are three lessons fashion students can take note of regarding Met Gala 2023. 

Tribute-Based Event

Met Gala has done only three designer-focused themes throughout its history. And that includes this year’s tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away in 2019. Leaving a legacy of updating Chanel’s look and numerous high fashion collaborations, he certainly left quite a mark on the fashion world. 

A fashion student should pay attention to how the theme was executed, bringing his creative and personal life together. This evening was paying tribute not only to Lagerfeld as a designer but as a prominent voice in the fashion industry. And even though he wouldn’t appreciate the “fashion is art” approach, this tribute was done with care and respect.

Note the blend of true vintage pieces like the bridal gown from Chanel on Penelope Cruise and custom looks adapted from Lagerfeld era Chanel by Harrris Reed for Ahsley Graham’s outfit. Plus, pay attention to how neutrals and Lagerfeld’s black and white uniform are utilized with the overall looks. 

How to Adapt a Legacy

A designer-focused theme is a pretty challenging task. Unlike last year’s “Gilded Age” event, a tribute poses limitations and responsibility to capture the legacy of the designer. No wonder Anna Wintour, a close friend of Karl’s, was closely involved with the organization of Met Gala 2023. So, the event could resemble the full impact of Lagerfeld’s fashion influence.

And even though not every look was on point, there are a couple of things worth noticing:

  1. Chanel. Lots of it. Probably, the first thing that comes to mind about Karl Lagerfeld is his work as a director of Chanel House. So, most celebrities went with adaptations of Legrfeld’s Chanel period. Like Dua Lipa’s bridal look. Or Kristen Stuart’s androgynous with a 2017s Chanel suit recreation.
  2. Black and White. It’s impossible to do a Karl tribute and not lean heavily in his signature monochrome look. Lagerfeld is known for sharp lines, big sunglasses, and his dedication to a black and white uniform. And that can be traced in almost every look.
  3. Structure. The overall looks feature sharp geometric lines and proportional silhouettes. And that would be a resemblance both to Lagerfels’ designs and his personal aesthetics.
  4. Personal touch. Doja Cat’s look was a tribute to Lagerfeld’s beloved cat Choupette. It’s an excellent pun and a humorous addition serving to put some personal touches on the tribute. 

Thus, as you can see, the matter of adapting the legacy of a designer is picking general themes that can strike associations right away. 


Addressing Ethical Dilemma 

As talented and influential as Karl Lagerfeld was, he’d also been quite problematic. Starting from fatphobia and some pretty nasty comments about Syrian refugees, a lot of what he said did not age well. So, addressing this side of his personality is important for keeping integrity. 

Of course, there’s a famous “separate art from the artist” approach.

But it doesn’t imply ignoring bigotry. And that is something that Met Gala 2023 completely glossed over. And as a fashion student, you have to take notice of how not to do that. 

Fashion (regardless of what Lagerfeld’s felt) is art. It is supposed to celebrate style and what can be expressed through closing. Fashion is a part of our daily lives too.

So, it’s important to keep integrity in check. When writing about or getting inspired by a controversial figure, try to:

  • Recognize contested legacy;
  • State your personal stance on bigotry;
  • Explain that you’re only taking inspiration from designs and do not endorse problematic statements. 

Wrapping Up

And that’s about it. When looking at the Met Gala 2023 stream, pay attention to how the designer-focused tribute is done. Note the blend of Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy as a designer and his personal style and life. But do not forget to stay mindful of his controversial past and keep your integrity when working with a contested legacy. 

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.