The risk of the Met Gala falling victim to its hype (and more)

The Met Gala, the annual event organised by Anna Wintour is now much more like a theme party than a hotbed of genius and inventiveness. And it suffers from certain flaws that, in the long run, may dim the blinding lights that, until now, have been able to illuminate it. Let us try to understand what they are

by Domenico Casoria


At the basis of the Met Gala, in close correlation with the exhibition organised by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is undoubtedly also the idea of designing and creating imagery of fashion that, starting from a context of patronage, literally explodes – today, in particular, on social media – a planetary hype that multiplies exponentially with each edition.

The exhibition, organised by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, starts with a theme that is chosen together with Anna Wintour (in the photo, taken from her Instagram profile). In recent years, however, there has been a somewhat American-centric view that tends to exclude other fashion stories around the world. A kind of paradoxically (somewhat) closed mindset that, in the long run – and perhaps already a little now – risks making the Met Gala a victim of its own hype.

American-centric excess

Mind you, it would be challenging to put on an exhibition that is inclusive from every point of view, but if we look at the themes of past editions, we realise that the prevailing idea is a one-way street. In 2022, for example, the theme of the exhibition was ‘America: An Anthology of Fashion’, while in 2021, it was ‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’.

Going backward, we find the one on time, on camp (i.e. “artifice” / “exaggeration”), or on Karl Lagerfeld, or the one in 2018 titled “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” that dialogued between fashion and art to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. To find an exhibition that was only inclusive in intentions, we have to go back to 2015 when the chosen theme was ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’, focusing on the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and the way in which China has fuelled stylistic imagination for centuries.

From meanings to logic

In addition to the choice of themes, which shows that there is still much to be done in terms of meaning, it is clear that the logic of the exhibition is increasingly bending to economic ones. From time to time, brands are chosen to sponsor the event and are among the most popular at the time. This year, for example, it was the turn of Loewe, part of LVMH. Which is now omnipresent on the scene, from the costumes of Challengers – the tennis film by Luca Guadagnino – to the collections in collaboration with Uniqlo, and which – guess what – appears among the most excellent brands in all the rankings.

Victim of his hype

From the point of view of creativity, however, given the sculptural outfits, the Met Gala might seem like Eden, but if one analyses these outfits, it is immediately apparent that two-thirds are archival repurposed for the occasion. In other words, the event is much more like a theme party than a hotbed of genius and inventiveness. What’s more – and this is the central theme – while everything outside is crumbling, the Met Gala seems to be the plastic representation of privilege above all because it continues to be an event for big fish in which no one’s children designers struggle to emerge.

Designers, however, are not lacking. Because in Anna Wintour’s idea of patronage, the big New York party is an opportunity to create a network of connections. In fact, the formula for emerging designers remains the same. In other words, hopes that some great fashion performer will put his hand on his conscience and decide not to raid, inviting that young designer in whom he sees some faint possibility, to whom he will entrust the creation of an extravagant look for a minor VIP. Crumbs, in short.