It’s not a stretch to call the inscrutable, rules-bending fashion of Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garçons, esoteric.
To call her profound body of work “avant-garde” would be simplistic. But that was the dress code given to the high-wattage guests of New York’s—and fashion’s—biggest party, held Monday (and every first Monday in May), which meant it was open to a very wide interpretation. Which also meant, basically, there were no rules.
And which meant, for the fashion heathens among us, it was easy to miss the point. Or why else would there be articles online mocking those who dared to wear as the invitation asked—I’m looking at you, Piers Morgan—and praising those who wore regular (boring) gowns?
As Andrew Bolton, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ Costume Institute, told Vogue: “I know we will get people who will laugh at [the exhibit] and not see the intention—the ones who reduce fashion to wearability.”
(The annual party is the fund-raiser for the Costume Institute, and Kawakubo’s work for Comme des Garçons is the subject of this year’s exhibition. Tokyo-based Kawakubo is only the second living designer to be given the honor, the other being Yves Saint Laurent in 1983.
Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross, Pharrell Williams and wife Helen Lasichanh, even former US envoy to Japan Caroline Kennedy—all in CdG—were among the fearless few who actually dared to come as one might expect to a party honoring a recondite designer.
There was also event cochair Katy Perry, red-tulle-veiled by John Galliano for Maison Martin Margiela; Michele Lamy, designer Rick Owen’s wife, swathed in a monstrous sculpture of red and pink; Solange Knowles in a Thom Browne puffer jacket gown.
But they were the exceptions. The rest—some guests of brands—came like they were invited to a different party
—like the prom, maybe. (Don’t get us started with Kim Kardashian’s prim white Vivienne Westwood, austere sans jewels, post-Paris robbery look. She whose brand is about showing skin
—and that’s not a putdown—looked like she lost the will to live.)
It’s worth noting that the Met Gala—the subject of a 2016 documentary called “The First Monday in May”—spearheaded by Vogue’s Anna Wintour, is not some mere party. It has been responsible for raising millions of dollars for the Costume Institute, $13.5 million last year alone. Thus, the vetting of who gets to attend goes through a very stringent process—Wintour, of course, having the last say.
It’s not enough to get an invite, if you’re ever so lucky to get her nod—you pay for your seat, said to be in the high five figures.
For some celebrities, they’re invited by brands, which pay for their tables. That means, the celebrities are dressed by their sponsors, making it a high-profile, hopefully high-return, marketing investment.
That means, you can’t expect, say, a brand like Oscar de la Renta to dress an actress in a lumpy, bumpy confection with zero armholes. (It dressed Zoe Kravitz in a pink-and-black gown that won’t be out of place at the Oscars.)
The ringmaster herself, Ms. Wintour, eschewed—once again—the dress code and wore a sequined, feathered Chanel.
The reclusive honoree, Ms. Kawakubo, who originally planned to skip the event, according to Vogue, came in a white leather jacket and black skirt, her usual daily look.
After all, as Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times wrote, “It’s their party, and they’ll wear what they want to.”