The Met Ball. The undisputed fashion event of the year where singers, actors and models gather in larger than life outfits cum costumes to see and be seen. This year, the public is offered an inside glance with upcoming documentary ‘First Monday in May’, directed by Andrew Rossi and due to air on the 15th April at the Tribeca Film Festival, then hit cinema screens shortly after. The Met Gala is a fundraiser event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, marking the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibition, which runs for a few months following the gala. The ball is always in keeping with the theme of the year’s exhibition and is chaired by Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-cheif, with guests instructed to choose their outfits accordingly.
‘First Monday in May’ centres around the 2015 Met Gala, titled ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ and examines the entire process of both the gala and exhibition, linking both with the debate of whether fashion can be considered art. This debate is mainly addressed by Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Andrew Bolton. It also features appearances from some of the most influential figures in art and fashion, including Baz Luhrmann, creative consultant for the Met Gala, Andre Leon Talley, Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano.
The 2015 Met Gala and following exhibit was described as an exploration of Chinese-inspired Western fashions, which went on to become the most attended Costume Institute exhibit in the Met’s history. The challenge of such an event is to ensure that the spectacular, high fashion outfits donned by celebrities do not overshadow the exhibition and artwork, and that the fashion does not drift to far into costume. At $25,000 per ticket, however, and outfits costing far more, this is a chance for designers and celebrities alike to let their creativity shine, and expose their brand. Viewers will see the complex organisation that goes into such an event, from seating charts to performances.
The recently released trailer shows various fashion icons describing the ball, “it’s the Superbowl of social fashion events”, says Andre Leon Talley, and Anna Wintour striding about organising things and being utterly terrifying in general. “He’d better not be on his cellphone all night”, she warns of one celebrity, “it’s going to look like a Chinese restaurant,” she says scathingly of the decor. It also shows Andrew Bolton defending the initiative of the theme, claiming to be “not afraid of controversy”, whilst still questioning if the theme could be considered racist.
The joy of hindsight offers some wisdom and answers to those posed in the documentary. Racism was a significant subject of discussion by many Chinese viewers, with many offended by outfit choices such as Cara Delevigne’s full-body fake floral tattoos, which were attributed to the Japanese, as opposed to Chinese culture. Others, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, were ridiculed for their clothing choices. Parker’s striking headwear piece designed by Philip Tracey likened to the Beijing Olympic mascot, Haunhaun, others likening it to the Heat Miser. Whilst Rihanna, who performed on the night, donned a striking gown created by Chinese designer Guo Pie (a rare phenomenon amongst the gala’s guests), she was too the subject of ridicule and some cruelly clever memes, which featured her long yellow train as an omelet. Quirky accessories such as Emma Roberts’ chopsticks stuck into her undo were criticised as dated and insensitive representations of Asian culture, so much so that after her Instagram post received negative comments, Roberts removed her hair accessories before stepping onto the red carpet. Chinese Vogue graced actor Zhang Ziti’s sculpted cream dress with their approval, naming her a “rare veteran” who successfully dressed for the theme.
It was not only the outfits that enraged viewers, but also the attitude and comments of the Met Ball attendees, which many deemed inappropriate. One such comment was made by John Hale, who told jokes regarding opium, and claimed that he prepared for the ball by watching Jackie Chan films. Talley, who was interviewing guests on the red carpet on behalf of Vogue, asked each interviewee what their favourite Chinese food was, a question deemed ignorant and unconnected by many. The exhibition itself, however, was deemed tasteful and respectful.
Now you understand the background, there is nothing to do but wait until April. As with all Vogue based documentaries, the ‘First Monday in May’ is bound to be creatively inspiring, aesthetically decadent and pleasantly entertaining. All that remains to be seen is how much they deal with the nitty-gritty, and the celebrity tantrums that occur along the way.