It is no surprise that this year’s MET Gala was no different than any other. The event was star studded with A-List celebrities, to CEOs and even politically salient persons like Brittney Griner, a formerly detained US athlete who was traded for a Russian arms dealer earlier last year. However, it was controversial and deserves critique for the simple fact that this year Andrew Bolton – the chief curator for the MET exhibition, decided the theme was to celebrate a highly problematic designer in the Gala: Karl Lagerfeld.
Karl Lagerfeld is undoubtedly one of the most influential designers in the history of fashion. His contributions to the industry are countless, and he has left his mark on the world of fashion. However, Lagerfelds legacy is full of controversies ranging from elitism, racism, homophobia, fatphobia and islamophobia among others.
One of the most significant controversies surrounding Lagerfeld is his fat-shaming comments. In 2012, Lagerfeld made headlines when he called singer Adele "a little too fat." He also made derogatory comments about the bodies of models and women in general. Lagerfeld's comments were not only hurtful but also perpetuated the idea that only thin individuals deserve to dress up. He has also been vocal about his ideas of what a family should be and publicly rejected the idea of homosexual families.
When it comes to more politically hurtful comments, In 2017, Lagerfeld sparked controversy when he made Islamophobic comments about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open Germany's borders to refugees. Lagerfeld suggested that Merkel's decision was a mistake and said, "One cannot -- even if there are decades between them -- kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place." This faced controversy in the Fashion industry and also raised other issues for the fashion community at large. The MET gala choosing to celebrate him in the tone deaf manner they have in 2023’s MET, clearly says that persons of color making problematic and unacceptable statements gets them canceled, as was Kanye, while white male designers receive barely any backlash in comparison no matter how many controversies they sign their names under.
Famously, Kanye West’s problematic comments were faced with immense backlash from the world of fashion in 2022 and 2023 given that he is an artist and a designer himself, but it is difficult to accept that Karl Lagerfedl has not faced half the criticism West has faced in his comments and is even celebrated as a legendary persona.
These controversies are just a few examples of the problematic behavior that Lagerfeld exhibited throughout his career. While his contributions to the fashion industry cannot be denied, it is important to acknowledge that he has caused immense harm to not only the world of fashion but also to the world at large. He is yet another example that being a bigoted white man with an extravagant persona gives you immense privilege in the world, no matter how problematic you are.
This is all to say that the MET Gala, and the fashion world can stop their tone deafness, not only for publicity but also in reality so that the MET Gala can stay a respected and highly acclaimed event for years to come, celebrating the artists that contribute and bring together our growingly polarized world, not ones that separate it.