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All About the 2023 Met Gala Theme | Karl Lagerfeld

(left to right) Pharrell Williams, Anna Wintour, Andrew Bolton at the announcement event Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Matteo Prandoni

This year’s Met Gala theme is all about the legendary Karl Lagerfeld.

You might know of the Costume Institute Benefit, much more widely known as the Met Gala, the highly renowned fundraiser where celebrities come donned in fashion-forward outfits—all on point with an assigned theme. It’s actually a lot more than just the Met Gala, it’s a full exhibition running from May 5—July 16. The Met Gala is a preview and benefit that provides The Costume Institute with its primary source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, operations and capital improvements. 

The Met Gala is happening today, May 1, 2023, and celebrities, artists and designers will be exploring the world of Karl Lagerfeld.

BEHIND THE MET GALA THEME: ABOUT KARL LAGERFELD

The German-born renowned designer didn’t set out for this career path, his plan at 21 years old was to be an illustrator. In 1954, he entered his sketch of a coat that won first place and got him the 1954 International Woolmark Prize. From there, doors opened and sprung his career into the immense success that it is now.

“I design like I breathe, you don’t ask to breathe; it just happens.” –Karl Lagerfeld

More than 65 years later, he is known for his ICONIC dark sunglasses, flawless hair and dark suits, and for running the design behind the equally-as-ICONIC Coco Chanel. He is also known for his multifaceted talents, having famous photography campaigns starting in 1987, interior and architectural designs in places like Paris, Macau, Miami and Berlin, and collaborating with the world’s most recognizable brands like Coca-Cola, Barbie, Stieff and H&M. 

Karl

"I design like I breathe, you don’t ask to breathe; it just happens.” -Karl Lagerfeld

Even with all the versatility, Lagerfeld still defined modern fashion more than just about anyone, despite some controversy over his contentious public statements. 

Some of his most memorable designs:

THE DOUBLE C INTERLOCKING LOGO FOR CHANEL

The famously, easily identifiable logo on Chanel with the two c’s intertwined? That was Lagerfeld’s design.

Runway image of ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Germany, 1933–2019) for House of CHANEL (French, founded 1910), fall/winter 1986-87. Courtesy CHANEL. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

THE WOMEN’S ‘POWER SUIT’

Remember the matching women’s power suit that donned the 21st century with a focus on tweed and chiffons? It first made its debut from Chanel in the 1920s, and Lagerfeld revamped it with the famous designs you often saw in the movies.

THE MULTI-LAYERED CHANEL PEARL NECKLACE FEATURED IN THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

Anne Hathway’s character Andrea or “Andy” in the movie The Devil Wears Prada dons a Lagerfeld designed necklace, a multi-layered pearl necklace with the Chanel logo added in–also Lagerfeld’s design.

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NATURE-THEMED RECYCLABLE COUTURE COLLECTION

In his later years, Lagerfeld started incorporating more and more environmentally conscious materials and processes. One of the more memorable ones was a Chanel Couture collection in 2016 that included flowing gowns decorated with wood shavings and nature prints. The materials were recyclable and biodegradable in line with his Karl Cares initiative to explore innovative efforts to become sustainable.

We can go on forever about Lagerfeld’s designs, like his giant hula hoop Chanel bag, the Fendi baguette handbag raved about by Carrie herself in Sex and the City and so much more. Lagerfeld passed away in February 2019 after his battle with pancreatic cancer, but his legacy lives on, and that’s why we’re more than excited to see Lagerfeld’s work as the theme of the Met Gala 2023 and Institute Exhibition.

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART’S SPRING 2023 COSTUME INSTITUTE EXHIBITION

Lagerfeld

(left to right) Loic Prigent, Roger Lynch, Amanda Harlech, Andrew Bolton, Silvia Fendi, Serge Brunschwig, Pier Paolo Righi, Anna Wintour, Pharrell Williams, Virginie Viard, and Bruno Pavlovsky at the announcement event Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Matteo Prandoni

The Costume Institute is going for a “line of beauty” with this Met Gala theme, particularly a “straight line,” a “serpentine line” and a “satirical line” that are a nod to Lagerfeld’s tendencies to represent modernism, history and playful, whimsical expressions in his designs.

Approximately 150 garments will be on view, spanning the designer’s career as the creative director of Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, and his eponymous label, Lagerfeld, as well as his time at Balmain and Patou.

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“The exhibition will explore Lagerfeld’s complex working methodology, tracing the evolution of his fashions from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional,” Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge for the Costume Institute said. “The fluid lines of his sketches found expression in recurring aesthetic themes in his fashions, uniting his designs for Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, and his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld, creating a diverse and prolific body of work unparalleled in the history of fashion.”

In the exhibition running from May 5 – July 16, 2023–with the Met Gala kicking off a preview show on May 1, 2023—you’ll see a focus on Lagerfeld’s stylistic aesthetic themes from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019. 

Sketch of “Aurélien” dress, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Germany, 1933–2019) for Chloé (French, founded 1952), spring/summer 1983. Courtesy Chloé Archive. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The exhibition will explore Lagerfeld’s complex working methodology, tracing the evolution of his fashions from the two dimensional to the three dimensional,” Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge for the Costume Institute said. “The fluid lines of his sketches found expression in recurring aesthetic themes in his fashions, uniting his designs for Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, and his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld, creating a diverse and prolific body of work unparalleled in the history of fashion.”

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