If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance that you spent the last few days poring over images from the Met Gala, the Oscars of the East Coast, as fashion insiders like to call it. The event, which every May celebrates the opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s fashion exhibition, is an occasion for celebrities, models and even designers (cue Marc Jacobs donning a lace skirt suit in 2012) to go wild and clad themselves in the most outrageous get-ups, fashion police be damned.
This year looked even more promising, at least on paper, given the subject of the exhibition: Rei Kawakubo, the iconoclastic founder of Comme des Garçons, the Japanese fashion label that has become synonymous with rebelliousness and has always blurred the boundaries between fashion and art.
Many of us expected the coterie of guests invited to the exclusive party to pay homage to the designer and try to fit into one of her admittedly difficult-to-wear creations, which have ranged from oversize shirts made of completely flat panels of fabric to body-con dresses with protruding lumps and bumps or distorted shoulder pads. The dress code, after all, was a challenging “Avant-Garde” and you would think that guests would have run with it and dared to make a statement.
Well, after looking at the endless slideshows of PYTs who showed up for the glamorous soirée, it’s clear that most of them didn’t get the memo. Out of more than 150 A-list attendees (yes, those slideshows are never-ending, and going through them took most of our Tuesday morning), only a handful wore Comme des Garçons and the only true high-profile ones were Rihanna, who never disappoints and turned up in a floral-print cut-out outfit from the label’s fall 2016 collection; and event co-chair Pharrell Williams, who opted for a Comme punk-inspired leather-jacket-and-jeans ensemble (kudos to his wife Helen Lasichanh, who went all out with a red jumpsuit that although not flattering was a successful attempt to celebrate Kawakubo’s vision). Everyone else stuck to the goddess gowns and column dresses that have become de rigueur at the Oscars and Golden Globes – safe choices that are not likely to ruffle any feathers and will easily make it to many best-dressed lists of the year.
While the red carpet has been getting safer – and as a consequence more boring – year after year, we were hoping that this time celebs would go the extra mile, at least out of respect for Kawakubo, who walked the red carpet in her signature leather motorcycle jacket, choosing a model in white instead of her signature black. Perhaps the safety of the looks was a reaction to the backlash and accusations of cultural appropriation many guests received two years ago when they showed up in Chinese-inspired outfits that were deemed by some culturally insensitive (the country was the subject of the 2015 exhibition).
Regardless of the reasons behind the ho-hum fashion of the evening, it was a missed opportunity to go bold and yet another reminder that the red carpet has become a pay-for-play game of celebrities borrowing fabulous gowns from publicity-hungry fashion houses. Here’s hoping that after looking at the one-of-a-kind Comme des Garçons creations displayed at the Met, the fashion elite will be inspired by Kawakubo to dream big and dare.