The key to avoiding disappointments is to not have expectations.
Which is why the Met Gala’s lack of appreciation for Comme des Garçons hardly bothered me. It is to be expected that most of the celebrated attendees would ignore the theme, especially one so conceptual and focused. We have to see the Met Gala for what it is – a circus of sponsorships, fundraising, and ultimately, money.
I love the Harry Potter book series. I’ve read all seven books, some of them twice. When the first movie came out, I was incredibly excited. Unfortunately I found myself leaving the cinema feeling less than thrilled with it. The movie felt like a poor summary of the book despite the beautiful visuals. I gave the second installment a chance, and by the third I was tired of being disappointed. From then on I decided to skip the rest of the franchise, opting to catch glimpses of them on various corners of the internet.
This is how I feel about the Met Gala. Despite being given broader themes to experiment with in the past few years, invited celebrities did not bother to stick to them. Given that this year’s theme is very specific, the blatant disregard was even more glaring. Fortunately I also didn’t bother to invest my expectations in it.
To understand why the VIPs were treating this event as another run-of-the-mill red carpet party, we need to look into the history of the Met Gala.
First and foremost, the Met Gala is the single biggest fundraiser event for the Costume Institute – the only wing of the Met which has to finance its own exhibits and activities. When it began hosting these dinners in mid 20th Century, the invitees were mostly the elites of New York. In the 70s, Diana Vreeland – one of fashion’s most celebrated icons and thinkers – took over the leadership of Costume Insitute, bringing the quality of the exhibits to new heights. Anna Wintour took over the position in the 90s, shifting the focus from the exhibits to the star-studded annual dinner party, much like what she has done for her own Vogue.
Every year, only 600-700 people are allowed to attend this party. If you have plenty of spare cash, a seat at the table would cost you $30,000. However, being able to fork out the money doesn’t guarantee a name on the guest list. Not only is there a queue, Anna Wintour has the final say on the list of attendees. She is thus solely responsible for the abhorrent and irrelevant herd of celebrities whose contribution to fashion, design and culture is none other than perpetuating the objectification of women and the fixation of youth in the form of Hadids and Jenners.
If you’re wondering why many of the attendees were wearing the same brands, that’s because these brands have bought tables – costing as much as $275,000 – and invited their chosen personas to their seats. If one accepts this invitation, one must wear the brand’s clothes. The non-negotiable contract forces the celebrities to double as walking billboards. This is why, ladies and gentlemen, you should not have expected anyone famous to wear Comme des Garçons. Instead, what we saw was a throng of prom kings and queens dressed up for a fancy shampoo commercial.
The Met Gala in its entirety has been transformed into a glitzy marketing exercise for the Costume Institute, as well as Anna Wintour’s Vogue. Comme des Garçons is simply the sideshow – something which Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe were well aware of. It is a celebrity-driven media circus whose sole purpose is to attract wealth and eyeballs by pandering to the lowest common denominator. The unfortunate consequence is that the celebrated guests consisted mostly of sensationalist individuals who cared more about the camera than the exhibits or goals of the Costume Institute.