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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Commentary: Analyzing the controversial theme of this year’s MET Gala

A look into the public opinion on Karl Lagerfeld’s association with the annual fashion event


By SARAH HAN — arts@theaggie.org


On Sep. 30, 2022, Anna Wintour announced the 2023 MET Gala theme as “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” to honor one of the most successful fashion designers of all time. However, the theme was not met with unanimous approval: some thought Karl Lagerfeld’s discriminatory past should not be celebrated.

Lagerfeld debuted when he revived the infamous brand Chanel in the 20th century. Additionally, he made genius designs for various brands including Balmain, Valentino, Chloé and Fendi. He introduced Fendi’s fur line, which used the skin of moles, rabbits and squirrels to create different silhouettes. Lagerfeld also dove into the land of photography, publishing his work in British Vogue and Chanel’s advertisements.

However, Lagerfeld received a fair amount of criticism for being fatphobic, racist and misogynistic throughout his career. In his book “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” he commented on women’s bodies, making remarks about specific individuals’ weight. Moreover, he publicly spoke against body positivity movements and promoted unhealthy eating habits.

His comments persisted when he criticized magazines for publishing curvy women and claimed that fashion and modeling were all about beautiful clothing, dreams and illusions. 

Lagerfeld also tolerated repeated accusations of sexual abuse from his colleague Karl Temper, a distinguished stylist. During the Me Too movement, he stated that he was “fed up with it” and said that female models are supposed to go beyond comfort on the runway. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, he attacked the feminist movement by stating that Coco Chanel was “not ugly enough to be a feminist.”

In addition to fatphobic comments, Lagerfeld was accused of racist and Islamophobic comments. Lagerfeld put German model Claudia Schiffer in blackface and yellowface for a campaign; meanwhile, he opposed prior German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls to provide asylum for refugees.

Despite Lagerfeld’s remarks, many fashion designers and models recognize him for his revolutionary accomplishments in the fashion industry — even some who oppose his opinions. Others disapprove of him being the theme for an event that historically celebrates diversity, originality and inclusivity. 

For example, actress Jameela Jamil, who starred in “The Good Place,” criticized how “famous feminists chose to celebrate a man who was cruel to women, fat people, immigrants and sexual assault survivors.” Jamil also noted that cancel culture is selective when it comes to those who hold power in the industry.

However, not all agree with Jamil’s comments. American television host Sarah Haines felt that there was a distinction between honoring Lagerfeld as a person and honoring his work. She felt that the latter better aligned with the MET’s goal. Likewise, actress Whoopi Goldberg expressed her hate for Lagerfeld’s beliefs yet still loved his artistic creativity and fashion advancements. 

Many regular attendees were absent for this year’s MET Gala, including Blake Lively, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and more. Although this massive absence might not be directly related to the event’s theme, there is some speculation that these notable figures simply did not want to be involved with the controversy.

Nonetheless, the MET Gala had a high turnout with several Kardashians, Jared Leto, Anne Hathaway, Jennie from Blackpink and many others attending the event. Although a dear friend of Anna Wintour, Lagerfeld’s association with the event undoubtedly sparked controversy among celebrities and fans.


Written by: Sarah Han — arts@theaggie.org