OPINION: The Met Gala: Exclusive or Exclusionary?

On the first Monday of May, the Costume Institute unveiled their spring 2024 exhibition, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” The Met Gala’s official dress code was “The Garden of Time,” drawing inspiration from the 1962 short story by J.G. Ballard. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and lead chairperson of the Met Gala, has since apologized for the confusion over this year’s theme and dress code.

Wintour’s apology was preceded by rumors that the exhibition originally intended to display the work of John Galliano, former creative director of Dior. The idea was reported to have been met with resistance from leadership and put on indefinite pause due to fear of public backlash. Galliano was fired from Dior in 2011, when the designer was found guilty of anti-semitic and racist abuse. Since his conviction, Galliano has continuously sought the forgiveness of both the public and fashion community.

As the current creative director of Maison Margiela, Galliano saw his pieces worn by the biggest stars in attendance of 2024’s annual Met Gala. Zendaya, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian and Bad Bunny were all pictured wearing Galliano’s designs at fashion’s “party of the year.” The designer’s work was unanimously said to have been the highlight of the evening. However, it has become increasingly clear that Anna Wintour and the Costume Institute have a history of platforming and celebrating controversial designers.

The late Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel until his death, was honored last spring with the Met’s exhibition, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” Lagerfeld was infamously fatphobic, racist and misogynistic; despite his notable influence on the fashion world, the response to this tribute was marked with uncertainty, hurt and outrage. In its following year, the Met Gala similarly showcased the work of Galliano, who was subsequently applauded for his innovation.

Should creativity or “genius” so easily negate the unforgivable? In this celebration of artistic excellence, are ethics equally valued and considered? With a pattern of overlooking inexcusable behavior and abuse, this upper-crust event has seemingly gone from exclusive to exclusionary and out-of-touch. Fashion remains both individual and universal, as an art form and a mode of expression; it communicates in a language of its own. By disregarding the concerns of people who have found identity in this expansive community, the Met Gala has further isolated itself from the shared passion and humanity behind the work that once made it special.

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