The Big L

As the first Monday in May passes once again, reflections on the messaging coming out of the Met Gala are highlighted on the world’s stage. This year’s theme was “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” featuring world-renowned fashion revolutionary Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld, beyond his most notable accomplishments at fashion houses like Chanel, Fendi, and Chloe, was a man that embodied and publicized extreme fatphobia and racism. Nonetheless, countless A-List celebrities showed up on the red carpet, donning gowns and suits designed in his name. 

High-scale events that command such a large viewership need to be more conscious of the figures they choose to represent themselves with.  By establishing Karl Lagerfeld as a theme, they platform his beliefs by overlapping his message with the MET Gala’s outreach, which was seen by over 12.3 billion viewers online, glorifying his wrongdoings. The name, Karl Lagerfeld, cannot be used in the theme of the gala, only representing his contributions to fashion, representing both his merit and flaws. In highlighting his achievements, the MET Gala only darkens his controversies.

Karl Lagerfeld has made definite marks on fashion: this work for Chanel, Fendi, and Chloé earned him recognition in the field. When Chanel, the brand that he made his deepest impressions, was at its low in the 1980s, Lagerfeld revitalized the brand by refreshing Chanel’s ready-to-wear line, changing the brands silhouette to be more contemporary, padding shoulders and shortening skirts. One of his most notable controversies, among many, was his comment about Heidi Klum, a supermodel at the time. He stated that she was “no runway model. She is simply too heavy and has too big a bust.” Many took this comment as blatant fatphobia against the model. Another instance was when Lagerfeld completely dismissed the #MeToo movement with this comment, stating, “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model. Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent.” 

Whether it is the intention of the MET Gala to endorse these qualities, Karl Lagerfeld is inextricably tied to his past and ideas espoused during life. As a memorial of Lagerfeld as an individual, the MET Gala celebrates every facet of his career, regardless if it is a hammer strike against the chisel sculpting the fashion or cutting comments that contribute to the festering culture of fatphobia and misogyny in the industry. When placed on the MET Gala’s pedestal, you display both Lagerfeld’s manicured front image and questionable backside. 

Instead of having problematic people represent the MET Gala’s stage, those who decide on the themes need to consider who they feature from angles in addition to fashion. While the MET Gala’s emphasis lies in the clothing industry, their publicity lends itself to the necessity of comprehensive review in all aspects, its influence beyond the stunning outfits on the red carpet.