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A Less Outrageous and Costume-y Met Gala? Why This Year’s Event May Be Different


Anyone who knew Karl Lagerfeld is sure to smile as they contemplate how the popular and respected late designer might have reacted to the Exhibition of the Costume Institute Karl Lagerfeld: a line of beauty, which opens May 5 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After all, how do you create a museum show centered around a man who believed that accolades and the idea of ​​”fashion as art” always took second place to the work itself?

“Karl never considered himself an artist. He thought that was pretentious, he always saw himself as a hired designer,” says Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Fashion and the organizer of the Met Gala since 1995 THR. “His relentless drive to get ahead also made him productive; he just had such a fast moving mind. The exhibition spans Lagerfeld’s 64-year career, featuring more than 150 of Lagerfeld’s designs for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé and his own eponymous label, as well as his previous work for Balmain and Patou.

The Met Gala also celebrates Lagerfeld, who died in 2019. The May 1 event is co-chaired by Wintour, Michaela Coel, Dua Lipa, Roger Federer and Penélope Cruz and both E! News and Fashion will have live streams from the red carpet.

Met Gala guests have often embraced outrageous custom looks inspired by exhibition themes, such as 2019’s Camp: comments on fashion. But affection for Lagerfeld the man and love for his work can result in a tapestry that leans more towards elegance than costume. With this year’s dress code simply reading: “In honor of Karl,” exhibition curator Andrew Bolton says he hopes gala guests will feel that “it’s in the spirit of Karl, and hopefully everyone will come out in vintage Chanel, vintage Fendi, vintage Chloé.”

A sketch by Karl Lagerfeld from the designer’s latest Chanel haute couture collection, Spring/Summer 2019.

Courtesy of Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Indeed, that idea has resulted in an increase in inquiries to top vintage retailers. “We always get calls leading up to the Met Gala, but there are definitely more this year,” said Seth Weisser, CEO of What goes around comes around. On the afternoon of Met Gala day, the luxury vintage retailer is hosting a styling suite at its West Broadway location to showcase its many Chanel items, including pieces from celebrated ’90s collections that also crossed the pinnacle of the supermodel era. .

On Friday, April 28, What Goes Around Comes Around also debuted the WGACA Atelier, a 5,000-square-foot retail space at 113 Wooster Street, which Weisser says will have an ongoing schedule of curated collections available for purchase. First up: a Karl Lagerfeld retrospective of vintage ready-to-wear and accessories spanning Lagerfeld’s career. “When we looked at our calendar and we knew the Met Gala theme, starting with Lagerfeld only made sense given our company and how well we’re doing with his legacy, especially in Chanel and Fendi,” says Weisser. “It was a perfect synergy to do our own shoppable vision. We knew we wanted to bring in a lot of those collectibles, some available to buy, but also some pieces that won’t be for sale, as well as using 3D imaging technology, all to create a really immersive presentation.

Weisser also enlisted Helena Christensen to both appear in the Atelier’s ad campaign, featuring a variety of vintage Chanel pieces, and to host the April 28 launch party at the Wooster Street location. Meanwhile, Lagerfeld fans who can’t make it to New York City, Weisser adds, several pieces were included on the retailer’s website and in an exclusive curation on Amazon’s Luxury Stores channel.

Karl Lagerfeld - Fashion Design - Fall/Winter 2004-2005

An ensemble from Karl Lagerfeld’s Autumn/Winter 2004-2005 collection, on display at the Costume Institute exhibition.

Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo © Julia Hetta

Cameron Silver, founder of the Los Angeles-based company Decades, says the enduring popularity of nearly everything Lagerfeld designed means some of the ensembles slated for Monday’s Met Gala may already have been in attendees’ closets. “Interest in Karl Lagerfeld-era Chanel, Fendi, and Chloe had increased right after the designer’s death,” he says. “Moreover, Chanel has always been highly sought after since opening our doors in 1997. I honestly don’t think there is a seismic increase as Lagerfeld’s designs are always coveted. So the desire has only strengthened, but people have been intensely collecting his work for many years. I hope someone shows up in a showered Chloe dress from 1983.”

Rita Watnick, owner of a vintage boutique in Beverly Hills Lily et Cie, also notes that she’s been receiving phone calls — but to access any of the half-million vintage pieces in her collection, customers must make an in-person appointment. “Recently I posted (on Instagram) two Chanel looks that I thought were very Met Gala friendly, but we just don’t post the important pieces in the social media world,” explains Watnick. “If a customer buys a really expensive, incredible piece, we don’t think the whole world needs to see it before they wear it.”

Karl Lagerfeld - Portrait - Photographer Annie Leibovitz

A 2018 portrait of Lagerfeld sketching at his desk, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.

Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue/Trunk Archive

Lagerfeld, who first met the designer in 1989, was known to visit Lily et Cie when he was in LA. “He was very generous and sent everyone here,” says Watnick. “He sent Naomi Campbell, he sent Kate Moss, he sent everyone. Much of Lily et Cie’s success has to do with Karl.”

What does Watnick think of the upcoming exhibition? “I wish it had happened while he was alive,” she says. “Karl was so productive, it was crazy, and he was infinitely curious, and that always went into his work, so I hope that’s all reflected in the exhibition.”

Weisser agrees. “Karl was a designer, but he was also a master creator,” he says. “You saw it in his designs, but also in his sketches and his love for photography. There really isn’t a designer who has had as many artistic roles as he has, so now is a good time to respect that.”

A version of this story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter magazine on April 26. Click here to subscribe.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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