Style / Fashion

Met Gala 2021: A Pivotal Shift in Fashion From the Norm

Part 1 — “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” — of the Met Gala sees many firsts and fashion heralds a new dawn.

Sep 16, 2021 | By Joseph Low
Billie Eilish, Met Gala 2021
Image: Billie Eilish

New York’s biggest fashion event, the Met Gala, is back in action once again after a year of hiatus. This year’s theme, “American independence” is split into two parts, with the second part scheduled for May 2022.

Monday night’s party represented the coming together of the fashion coterie after months of being separated. The evening’s costume theme was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”. Celebrities, politicians, and social media stars turned up in outfits that were designed by American designers or inspired by the country’s sartorial culture. The last time the Met Gala featured an “American fashion” theme was in 2010, when it was sponsored by Gap.

While most of the action took place on the runway, the purpose of the soirée was to raise funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Typically, the grand affair is usually held on the first Monday in May, but this year’s event was postponed to September due to Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Gen Z takes centrestage at this year’s Met Gala

This year’s American-themed event was markedly different from previous years for a number of reasons. Firstly, the co-hosts this year comprised of stars from Gen Z and have an average age of 23. They are Timothée Chalamet, the 25-year-old star of “Dune”; Amanda Gorman, the 23-year-old youngest inaugural poet; Naomi Osaka, the 23-year-old tennis champion and mental health activist; and Billie Eilish, 19-year-old Grammy Awards recipient.

Secondly, a number of A-list celebrities skipped this year’s Gala, including Zendaya, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, and Beyoncé. Rapper Nicky Minaj also didn’t attend because she has yet to be vaccinated — only guests who are fully vaccinated can participate in the night’s festivities.

Thirdly, this year’s gala was sponsored by Instagram and this allowed for greater accessibility and participation by those interested. Through the partnership with the social media giant, Met Gala inspires to connect with its audience and make the annual event more dynamic. Viewers on Monday night had access to behind-the-scenes content, live commentary, and exciting activations. Both parties also tested out new features to enable fans the opportunity to purchase products used on celebrities.

Unlike the previous galas where it was difficult to catch a glimpse of what was happening, having Instagram as the Gala’s media partner enabled fashion to be slightly more democratised than before. The usual rule of no phones and recording devices still stand in a bid to create keep things more mysterious and encourage conversations even after the event is over.

Inclusivity is the world of the night

In an effort to become more inclusive, Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri and director of fashion partnerships Eva Chen hosted a large table to include up-and-coming designers such as Christopher John Rogers and Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond.

Similarly, lesser-known designers included in the museum exhibit also got to attend the Met Gala and every table included at least one emerging designer. Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton took the lead by buying a table to host the new generation of designers such as Kenneth Nicholson, Theophilio, and Jason Rembert as his guests.

The Met Gala is no stranger to political statements made by its attendees, and this year’s affair was no different. As the gala is covered by the a plethora of global media, it is the perfect stage for celebrities to express their views through their clothes. This year, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn B. Maloney stole the spotlight with their bold dresses. Ocasio-Cortez’s dress was emblazoned with a statement reading “tax the rich” while Maloney’s dress called for equal rights for women.

Unlike the previous iterations, this year’s gala shifted its stance and it is now championing size inclusivity by including plus-size models like Precious Lee and Ashley. Greater transgender representation was also seen through attendees like Nikkie de Jager (NikkieTutorials), Valentina Sampaio and Leyna Bloom. The transgender group has been ignored in the past, however, social movements have dominated conversations over the past year and it would be tone deaf if the fashion industry does not heed the calls for change.

Despite all the excitement building the Met Gala up as the “greatest evening on the fashion calendar”, it did end up feeling a little underwhelming. Perhaps the industry is still not ready for the full-on extravaganza that is the Met Gala.

The Delta variant is still ravaging most parts of the world and to see a group of privileged individuals coming together for a party that costs US$30,000 may seem rather unpalatable. However, it cannot be denied that the gala has helped to spark conversations about how one should view fashion in the post-pandemic era.

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