Having previously seen Rihanna dressed as a sexy pope, Beyoncé in nothing but rhinestones and some serious head-piece rivalry, what will this year’s ‘Oscars of the fashion’ bring?
Category is camp.
Alexander McQueen: ‘Savage Beauty’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City, USA,2011
Text : Benjamin Park
Demystifying the Met Gala 2019
Anna Wintour wearing Chanel. Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Since that exhibition, under the careful eye of curator Andrew Bolton (partner of menswear designer Thom Browne) in tandem with Vogue’s Anna Wintour, the evening of the Met Gala that marks the opening of the each year’s new exhibition has become THE event of the fashion calendar. Theme has continued in controversy, seeking to give designers a direction but still autonomy, the result is a fury of colour, avant-garde design and often, a lot of side boob or furious head pieces (see Sarah Jessica Parker’s 2015 look). With pervious themes being ‘China: Through the Looking Glass” and “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, designers never cease to amaze with their couture designs and theme interpretations. Of equal importance is that the Gala gives opportunities to emerging designers or designers who haven’t previously been able to break into the main stream such as Guo Pei, the Chinese courtier who crafted Rihanna’s iconic imperial yellow gown in 2015.
SJP stepped out in a Philip Treacy headpiece, SJP collection shoes and a stunning high-slit dress that she designed in collaboration with H&M
For over 60 years the Met Gala has brought in millions of dollars raising money for the costume institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Going largely unnoticed for decades, it was with the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition in 2011 that the event was thrust into the limelight. Something about an exhibit so provocative with such a dark theme, so soon after the suicide of the famously tortured designer stirred curiosity and controversy, not just in the fashion community but in the wider public and thus McQueen, the museum and high fashion on a was thrust into the public eye on a global scale.
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Hosted by the androgynous Gucci campaign star, Mick Jagger lookalike Harry Styles and the couture loving, queer icon Lady Gala, this years the theme stands as ‘Camp:Notes on Fashion” taking it title from the 1964 Susan Sontag essay, ‘Notes on Camp’. Generating a fair amount of confusion, it turns out camp is almost impossible to pinpoint a definition for - it is an emotion of “sensibility” as defined by Sontag. Bolton, keen to point out that ambiguity was part of the point, remarked “it evades definition...the exhibition raises more questions than it answers” - much like the McQueen exhibition, it gives the power of interpretation to the viewer.
First coined in the era of King Louis XIV within the French court, ‘camp’ denotes a performance of display and glamour. It was then adopted by queer subculture in Victorian England and then used by the infamous homosexual creative Oscar Wilde. Afterwards cultural critic Sontag, seduced by Wilde’s literature, noted camp’s theatrical allure as the “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration”. Indeed, expect to see drama, performance, daring accessories and no doubt streams of tulle and organza as this year’s designers put on a camp, spring performance.
Camp cultural icons that may influence designers: the court of Versailles and their extravagances, infamous burlesques dances such as Gypsy Rose Lee, Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Diptych’, Grace Jones and 2000’s Dior couture by John Galliano, to name a few.
Designers to watch out for on this years’ red carpet : tulle-loving British designer Molly Goddard, avant-garde couture designers such as Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino and Alessandro Michele for Gucci plus camp favourites such as Viktor and Rolf and Herve Leger.