Models protest controversial Karl Lagerfeld Met Gala theme

Models have protested the controversial decision to honour Karl Lagerfeld through the theme for the 2023 Met Gala.

On Monday 1 May 2023, the annual fashion extravaganza returned to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for the opening of the Costume Institute’s exhibit “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” which will honour the “full work and life” of the late German designer.

However, not everyone is supportive of the theme chosen and announced by Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as many have pointed to the designer’s history of controversial comments.

Ahead of Monday’s event, which saw the star-studded guest list make its way to the Met Gala steps, some models took the opportunity to protest the theme due to Lagerfeld’s past treatment of those in the industry.

“The choice to honour Lagerfeld embodies the dissonance of an industry that claims to be progressive, that celebrates body positivity and survivors on the one hand, and then reveres figures like [Lagerfeld] without even acknowledging their regressive views,” Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, told Jezebel.

The Model Alliance, which was founded in 2012 and advocates for models’ rights and safety, made its displeasure with the theme known with an in-person protest on the iconic Met Gala steps on Sunday, a day before the annual gala.

For the protest, the Model Alliance was joined by a number of notable individuals, including L’Oreal Global Ambassador Nidhi Sunil, models Ambra Gutierrez, Mamé Adjei, Rozi Levine, and Roberta Little, and New York state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, according to Jezebel.

Lagerfeld’s contentious past, which included derogatory comments about marginalised groups and public figures, also included frequent criticism of women.

Jameela Jamil condemned the decision to honour Lagerfeld with the Met Gala theme shortly afer it was announced last year, with the actress recalling the “distinctly hateful way” the designer used his platform.

“This man... was indeed, supremely talented, but used his platform in such a distinctly hateful way, mostly towards women, so repeatedly and up until the last years of his life, showing no remorse, offering no atonement, no apology, no help to groups he attacked... there was no explanation for his cruel outbursts,” Jamil wrote.

In addition to fatphobic comments, which he directed at both models and public figures, Lagerfeld also had a history of problematic comments about the treatment of models in the fashion industry.

After suggesting that he was “fed up” of the MeToo Movement in 2018, Lagerfeld controversialy told fashion magazine Numéro: “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”

As noted by Ziff, the red carpet is expected to include various tributes to Lagerfeld, but no criticisms of his behaviour. “This year’s Met Gala, which happens to fall on International Workers’ Day, will honour the creative genius of Karl Lagerfeld,” Ziff told protest attendees Sunday, according to Jezebel. “What will undoubtedly be left unsaid about Lagerfeld, who I worked with regularly as a model, is any mention of his problematic attitude towards women who didn’t fit his harmful and outdated standards.”