Best dressed lists, and Black Twitter awards aside, the real winners at Met Gala are companies who have their brands bolstered by proximity to prestige and celebrity.
That rarely includes independent Black designers working without the resources of brands owned by conglomerates. Designers (of any race) who have not been acquired by or invested into by a large firm are rarely present on the carpet at all.
Black creativity’s impact is never absent from the Annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but this year there were more Black creatives than ever present to benefit from it.
Keke Palmer wore a Sergio Hudson gown, Law Roach rocked Malyia McNaughton diamonds, Jackie Aina donned Fe Noel, Jordan Alexander and Eva Chen wore Christopher John Rogers, and AOC made a statement in Aurora James’ Brother Vellies. Pyer Moss (who previously laced Lena Waithe for the affair) matched his own design with jewelry from Johnny Nelson. Amanda Gorman, Taraji P Henson, Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys, Allyson Felix Grace, Storm Reid, Cynthia Ervio, Winnie Harlow, Stephen and Ayesha Curry were styled by Jason Bolden.
Is that enough? Hell no! But will it change some careers and lives? Yes.
Capitalism is the ghetto but it’s where we live and we are all trying to survive it the best way we can in cubicles, on zoom sessions, and in design studios.
As the reemergence of the infamous “dinner with Jay-Z” debate reminds us, capital is key to accomplishing. Black designers often do not have the capital to obtain a table at an event like this without additional support. That is a problem that needs to be addressed. We don’t have to ignore, or discredit, those who were there to do that.
Asking ‘where are the Black designers,’ erases those who were there.
The Met Gala brings fashion veterans and civilians together once a year to judge the hits and messes on the red carpet. It’s fun to use our thumbs to disapprove of others but let’s not leap over the facts on the way to Tweetdeck.
The Met Gala is a fundraiser, designed to support the Costume Institute’s exhibition and programming initiatives. Every seat at the event impacts employees at the museum, and the programs they can offer to patrons for free. A company and a brand are not the same thing and liquid funds from companies are what pay for the conversation grade archival mannequin exhibit cases lining the walls of that building. Vibes are not currency.
It would be nice if the costume exhibit could sustain itself on sunshine and suggested donations but that’s not the world we live in.
Celebrities frequently refuse to pay for their charmed life out of pocket – ask any makeup artist in Miami or New York they’ll tell you- so the seats they occupy are likely funded by a faceless corporation whose only public appearance will be an inscription on a marble wall.
Lewis Hamilton, a popular race car driver from the UK, worked with Wintour to extend invites to Black American designers Kenneth Nicholson, Edvin Thompson, and Jason Rembert, who dressed Kehlani, Sloane Stephens, Jozy Altidore, and Radhika Jones for the occasion.
Partnerships like this are an important step towards supporting Black designers and we would love to see labels like Melody Asherman, Undra Celeste, Kimberly Goldson, Edwing D’Angelo, Hanifa, and many others given the same spotlight.
Capitalism means the big guy wins so despite the theme being distinctly American LVMH and the brands it owns were never going to be absent.
Like Amazon, Shiseido, and Unilever, LVMH is a conglomerate. Conglomerates have a strategic advantage when it comes to obtaining raw materials, securing beneficial advertising rates, capitalizing on press opportunities and establishing partnerships with cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The artisans who sit at the helm of their brands might be in the spotlight but the conglomerate’s coins remain front and center no matter whose name is on the inside of the bag you rented from that spot on Wooster in Soho.
Criticism of that reality is important for many reasons but it is possible to acknowledge this moment for those present without pointing out its downside in the same breath.
There were Black designers present who showed up and showed out. There were not enough of them present.
That can be two separate thoughts.