Reviewing the Met Gala: The Good, the Avant-Garde, the Absurd

Reviewing the Met Gala: The Good, the Avant-Garde, the Absurd
What does it mean, as the invitation requested, to dress “Avant-Garde”?

This was the question on Monday night at the Met Gala, the annual fund-raising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, and the answer was always going to be a doozy. On the one hand, the term avant-garde implies all sorts of things: pushing boundaries, breaking rules, going where no one else has gone before. On the other, the gala, one of the most-watched, celebrity-packed red carpet events of the year, has come to imply a lot of other things, chief among them major fashion-brand marketing moments (you know: put movie star in dress, have movie star identify dress, send picture round the world). These are not necessarily compatible imperatives.How to reconcile the two was the challenge. Especially because the obvious move — wear clothes from Comme des Garçons, the brand being celebrated at the event, the subject of the exhibition the party was honoring, and the inspiration for the dress code itself — seemed largely off the table. Though whether that was because the truly avant-garde nature of the work of Rei Kawakubo, the brand’s founder and designer, was simply too scary for most people-page regulars, or because CdG does not pay celebrities to wear its clothes, and has no official “face” or “ambassadors,” was unclear.

There were, for sure, some brave souls: Pharrell Williams, an event co-chairman, in ripped jeans, “Rei” inked on the knee, plaid shirt and motorcycle jacket; his wife, Helen Lasichanh, in a red jumpsuit that flattened and haloed the body and had no armholes; Michèle Lamy, the partner of the designer Rick Owens, in snaking red and pink vinyl waves; and Rihanna, swallowed up in a boa constrictor of chintz ruffles, femininity on the rampage. In CdG, all.

NEW YORK TIMES