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Taking a closer look at how the exclusive, socialite-filled event has evolved over the years to cater to a digital generation
Given the slew of changes that 2021 has arrived with, we’re not surprised that the most fashionable seven days in Manhattan (aka New York Fashion Week) is closing out in a slightly different way this year. Tom Ford is replacing Marc Jacobs as the final show of NYFW, and the guests of the typically-springtime Met Gala will be gracing the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in all of their customized, couture-wearing glory at the very end of September fashion week. With the theme being “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” American designers like Ralph Lauren, Virgil Abloh, Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford, LaQuan Smith, and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss will be watched with a close eye. It’s a chance for the designers to not only design a piece of art with insane click value but also to make a statement with who they dress, given the gala’s cult following.
Feeling intimidated by the “Super Bowl of fashion”? CR has your back with a guide on everything you need to know about the Met Gala but were too afraid to ask. However, if you consider yourself to be a Met Ball expert, muse with us for a moment about what could happen this year. Will Rihanna show up in another outfit that’s iconic yet slightly reminiscent of food? (See: the omelette dress by Guo Pei). How many looks will Lady Gaga possibly wear in one night? Can Jared Leto ever top bringing a wax head of himself onto the red carpet? Though the fall celebration will be slightly smaller in numbers as it precedes the May 2022 Met Gala, the year-long break from red carpet stairs and celebrity attempts to follow the theme to the best of their ability has both industry vets and fans eagerly anticipating September 13th where attendees (and who they are wearing) will finally be revealed.
The Met Gala’s curated guest list has always been representative of the most influential, important, and up-and-coming players in fashion, media, and entertainment so naturally as times shift, so does the list of attendees. The 2019 gala was met (no pun intended) with some controversy as internet personalities James Charles, Liza Koshy, Camilla Coelho, and Lilly Singh were all in attendance. Several news outlets reported on the inclusion of influencers when it came to the biggest night in fashion, as we all asked ourselves in the words of Women’s Wear Daily, “Are Influencers Now Part of Fashion’s Elite?” The 2019 guest list was an indication of changing times and increasing digital influence, though some questioned the exclusivity of the Met Gala with younger social media figures walking the red carpet. Derek Blasberg, head of fashion and beauty partnerships at YouTube, told WWD that “sometimes fashion is hesitant to welcome new ideas, especially in the tech and social media space, but it has become undeniable that what these people [Charles, Singh, and Koshy] are doing for fashion is incredible”.
James Charles in particular faced a heavy wave of controversy after taking to Instagram to thank the Met Gala and Alexander Wang for the invite and his outfit respectively, saying that his attendance was “a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media.” Many criticized him for implying that he, and other influencers with a similar level of privilege, were in need of additional or increased representation. Charles however is no stranger to digital disapproval, having gone through several rounds of YouTuber drama, problematic tweets, and drastic dips in his subscriber count due to various controversies.
A post shared by James Charles (@jamescharles)
Charles is not the typical Met Gala invitee, but the general explosion of social media virality and our collectively increasing media consumption has us all speculating about who will be attending the 2021 Met Gala. This year’s focus on supporting and highlighting young talent is clear as the 2021 chairs — Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka — are all under the age of 25. Most of the biggest digital players also happen to be under the age of 25, from Lil Nas X (22) to Lil Huddy (19), and many have achieved their respective levels of fame thanks to TikTok. Addison Rae and sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio are rumored to attend, along with Gen Z favorites Olivia Rodrigo and Emma Chamberlain.
What we’ll most likely see is the clashing of the old guard and the new guard, and in a fashion industry deeply dependent on both tradition and fresh ideas, this is nothing out of the ordinary. Tavi Gevinson, currently playing the role of Miss Keller on the HBO Gossip Girl reboot, was once a 13-year-old girl wearing a massive, view-blocking bow at the Dior Fall/Winter 2010 haute couture show. Genvinson scored her ticket thanks to thestylerookie.com, a fashion blog she started in middle school. Her NYFW attendance in September 2009 caused an avalanche of headlines that, in Genvinson’s own words for The Cut, ranged from “Tween Blogger Attends Fashion Week” to “Tween Blogger Sits Front Row at Fashion Week” to “Fashion Establishment Mad That Bloggers Are Sitting Front Row,” and then, finally, “All Legacy Media Likely to Be Replaced by Blogs Someday Soon.” Now more than 10 years later, another new wave has arrived and no, it’s not bloggers — it’s the young social media kids who have emerged onto the scene and we’re not quite in agreement about what to do with them.
At Dior. Not best pleased to be watching couture through 13 year old Tavi’s hat
The brands know what to do with them, though, and it’s these larger brands who are buying tables at the Met Gala and dressing these celebrities and influencers. The digital natives that are rumored to be attending the Met Ball this year have click value. They create conversations. They have major followings of millions of young people who are in the process of picking their brand loyalties and will eventually grow up to be paying customers. While it’s difficult to speculate the details of these Met collaborations, taking a look at their previous brand work can give us indications of what might be coming up in September.
It would be an educated guess, for example, to say that creator Emma Chamberlain could be wearing Louis Vuitton to the Met Gala if invited. She and Charli D’Amelio were recently tapped to front Louis Vuitton’s most recent shoe campaign, and D’Amelio’s association with the brand could score her a spot through their table as well. Lil Huddy aka Chase Hudson, who has over 31M TikTok followers and works with stylist Tabitha Sanchez, has been featured in a campaign with Celine in the past. We aren’t sure if Hudson will receive an invite, but based on his edgy, Slimane-esque, E-Boy style Hudson could be a good fit to work with the brand this September if he does attend. It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship, after all; it’s the same model that is reflected in any partnership between a social media influencer and a brand. The influencer gets exposure and holds greater authority in their niche, and the brand directly accesses each and every one of their followers.
A post shared by Chase Hudson (@lilhuddy)
The Met Gala is changing almost as quickly as the landscapes of the industries that its attendees occupy. When the Gala was first established by powerhouse publicist Eleanor Lambert in 1948, handheld mobile phones were still 25 years away from being invented. Though cellphones are banned at the Met Gala, influencers will probably just proceed to take the rule as a light suggestion in the same way that Kylie Jenner did when she took her infamous Met bathroom mirror selfie. After all, YouTube had a table in 2019, and Instagram and Facebook both have snagged tables for this September that they will be able to fill with guests for the night. It seems only fitting that the social media platforms will be present, despite the phone rule, as they represent the masses of online opinions that some may argue are just as collectively influential as the social media stars themselves.