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The 2023 Met Gala Theme Is a Tribute to Karl Lagerfeld’s Legacy

It’s hard to believe that the Met Gala has yet to pay homage to Karl Lagerfeld—not just during his lifetime, but especially since he passed away at age 85 after a private battle with pancreatic cancer in February 2019. That changes next spring, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute will honor the late legend with the exhibition, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” Comprised of roughly 150 garments from his time at Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Patou, and Balmain, and Lagerfeld’s eponymous label, the show will explore the German-born designer’s stylistic legacy and working methodology over the course of his highly influential 65-year career. The exhibit, as always, will provide inspiration for the accompanying gala’s red carpet attire.

The breadth of the exhibition is a testament to how much Lagerfeld shaped fashion over the course of a whopping six and a half decades—and a signal that Met Gala attendees who choose to embrace the theme will have more to work with than usual since its thematic tradition began under Diana Vreeland. Lagerfeld cut his teeth working for Pierre Balmain back in the late 1950s. After just three years, he was appointed as artistic director of Jean Patou. About a decade later, in 1967, he began what would go on to be a more than 50-year tenure at Fendi. In the ‘70s he’d add a stint at Chloé to his resumé. Then in 1982 he took on what would become his signature job: reviving the historic French House of Chanel, which at the time was viewed as a brand that had seen better days. His eponymous label followed soon after. Between that, Chanel, and Fendi, he was regularly churning out easily a dozen collections per year.

While not every guest will wear clothing designed by Lagerfeld, the designers who do dress them will have ample inspiration to draw from.

Of course, the gala is technically about raising money for the Costume Institute rather than creating a red carpet spectacle. The exhibit itself will be structured around a theory of aesthetics that the British painter William Hogarth introduced in 1753. Head curator Andrew Bolton interpreted it as three lines: the “straight” and the “serpentine,” which will illustrate Lagerfeld’s respective modernist and historicist propensities, and the “satirical,” which will close out the exhibition with a look back at the designer’s wit and whims.

Bolton and co. aren’t the only ones exploring the Kaiser’s legacy. Disney+ is also working on a six-episode series that will span a year after Coco Chanel’s death in 1972 to his death in 2019.

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