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MET Gala opening show is a celebration of designers of colour

Last night’s MET Gala saw the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Rihanna, and Billie Eilish grace the red carpet in a celebration of American fashion, but it was the opening show that really caught the spotlight.

The theme of this year’s MET Gala was In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, and saw actors, singers, politicians, and influencers pay homage to the history of American fashion.

Notable outfits include Nikkie de Jager’s (NikkieTutorials) tribute to trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, Lil Nas X’s multiple outfit changes into a golden skin-tight bodysuit and Yara Shahidi’s bejewelled gown, inspired by Hollywood starlet Josephine Baker.

However, beyond the fantastic outfits (and the ones that didn’t go down so well) this year’s opening show aimed to reframe the concept of America and being American.

Viewers were initially met by a model wearing a sash of the patriotic red, white and blue, displayed with the question, ‘Who Gets to Be American?’

The sash reflects the contemporary and controversial questions surrounding belonging, identity, and citizenship in America, the so-called ‘mixing-pot’ of different cultures.

More than 40% of the exhibits on the show were by designers of colour, higher than any previous ensemble show by the Costume Institute, including the designer of the sash Prabal Gurung, who is of Nepalese heritage.

The curator Andrew Bolton explained, ‘American fashion is undergoing a renaissance that is being driven by engagement with political and social issues.’

He says that it is ‘young designers’ who are leading the way in fashion, and in conversations about ‘inclusivity’ around race, gender and ‘the body.’

Instead of aiming towards the big fashion houses of Europe, Bolton believes that this new wave of designers approach fashion ethically, in a way that is rooted in ‘values and community.’

In line with these sentiments, the show did not give out a monopoly to the big names of fashion- nearly every designer on the runway was given just one piece.

The show was innovative in more ways than one; rather than organising in decade, trend or designer, pieces were arranged by emotion.

‘Joy’ for example was a 1986 sweater dress by Patrick Kelly, who was the first black designer to be admitted to the prestigious and highly coveted Chambre Syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode.

The celebration of black designers did not stop at the opening show, thanks to Lewis Hamilton.

The famous F1 driver invited alongside him four emerging Black designers- Kenneth Nicholson (@kenneth.nicholson), Theophilio (@theophilio), Jason Rembert(@jasonrembert), and Law Roach (@luxurylaw).

Also at the table was model Alton Mason and athletes Miles Chamley-Watson and Sha’Carri Richardson, and singer Kehlani.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also caught people’s eyes with her politically driven dress with the phrase Tax the Rich emblazoned down the back.

In an Instagram post, AOC explained ‘the medium is the message,’ as her dress was designed by Aurora James (@aurorajames), Black immigrant designer with a focus on sustainable fashion, and her make-up and hair was done by an ‘All-BIPOC/women/LGBT+ team.’

Whilst the guests of the MET Gala have never been shy about using the event to make bold statements, this year’s round of activism-inspired fashion has certainly grabbed the world’s attention.


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