The problem with the 2023 Met Gala theme

Vogue+Editor+in+Chief+and+Met+Gala+host+Anna+Wintour+posing+with+late+designer+Karl+Lagerfeld+in+2015.

Photo courtesy of Fashionista

Vogue Editor in Chief and Met Gala host Anna Wintour posing with late designer Karl Lagerfeld in 2015.

Olivia Chiappelli, Arts Reporter

Last week it was revealed the theme of the 2023 Met Gala would be “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” — a tribute to the late fashion designer. Lagerfeld designed for a wide array of labels during his decade spanning career, but was most notably known as the creative director of Chanel from 1983 until his death in 2019.

The accompanying exhibition will showcase around 150 Lagerfeld designs — displayed alongside their respective original sketches. Given that Lagerfeld was outspoken about his hatred of fashion being shown in museums, the exhibition will reportedly be taking a more nontraditional approach to a retrospective.

“He loathed the idea of fashion standing still enough to be admired at a backward glance,” Anna Wintour — the editor in chief of US Vogue, as well as the annual host of the Met Gala itself — told The Guardian.

When examining Wintour’s connection to Lagerfeld, it is clear why he is being honored. The two were longtime friends and colleagues — with Wintour almost exclusively wearing Chanel to the Gala every year regardless of the theme at hand.

It makes sense that Wintour would choose to honor her friend — but does that mean we should?

While Lagerfeld had an undoubtedly influential and accomplished career, he himself was shrouded in controversy. From the way he consistently criticized women’s bodies to his claim that he was “fed up” with the Me Too movement, Lagerfeld represents the opposite of where the fashion industry should be headed.

In the year of 2023, I don’t think we should be celebrating a man who once said, “No one wants to see curvy women,” while defending his practice of exclusively hiring dangerously thin models for his shows, especially if this tribute is inspired by his “vision.”

Honoring Lagerfeld at this point in time honestly feels like a step backward in an already toxic industry where it is still a shock to see anyone above a size four walking the runway. 

This is also a man who once 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,” in response to models sharing their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace.

And to make matters worse, Lagerfeld’s offensive views were often dismissed as “iconic quotes” and signs of his “irreverent personality” because of his legacy in the industry.

In our current times where we apparently emphasize a focus on accountability, Lagerfeld should be treated no differently. There is no separating the artist from their art here — Lagerfeld’s beliefs informed his “vision,” and thus informed his designs.

As much as I, too, love to admire those 90s archive Chanel pieces, I don’t need to see Lagerfeld’s sea of tweed in an exhibition. I’d rather just go on Pinterest.