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New York Met Gala: Celebrities remember Karl Lagerfeld

May 2, 2023

From metallic outfits to cats, with a few capes thrown in for good measure: Welcome to the Met Gala. Meanwhile, the decision to pay homage to the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld did not come without criticism.

USA New York Met Gala 2023 Metropolitan Museum
The stars, such actor Jared Leto, paid homage to Karl LagerfeldImage: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

The Met Gala is known for its extravagance, and the 2023 version lived up to expectations.

As is usual, an array of models, actors and musicians came to embrace the occasion, from Gisele Bundchen to Naomi Campbell, from Australian actor Nicole Kidman to Nigerian singer Tems. Some came to flaunt, many to celebrate, and others to just be there.

This year's guests were called on to dress "in honor of Karl," as the event paid tribute to German designer  Karl Lagerfeld (1933–2019).

Lil Nas X attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty" exhibition
Lil Nas X added heavy metal to the showImage: Evan Agostini/Invision/APpicture alliance

Rapper Lil Nas X arrived covered from head to toe in metallic silver body paint, crystals and pearls along with a bejeweled cat mask, while Jared Leto (top picture) dressed as Choupette, the beloved cat of the German fashion designer.

US actor Jeremy Pope paid homage to Lagerfeld by wearing a 32-foot (9.75-meter) cape emblazoned with an image of the late designer.

US actor Jeremy Pope arrives for the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a cape adorned with an image of Karl Lagerfeld
The cape worn by Jeremy Pope stretched almost 10 metersImage: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

Ghanaian-British screenwriter and actor Michaela Coel was this year's Met Gala cochair, alongside Grammy-winning artist Dua Lipa. 

Coel wore a nude semi-sheer long sleeve Schiaparelli gown encrusted with 130,000 crystals, straight back corn rows and accessories that included a diamond and gold turtleneck necklace, while Lipa opted for a gown first made famous by supermodel Claudia Schiffer, one of Lagerfeld's muses.

American Janelle Monae, meanwhile, wore a see-through cage.

US actot/singer Janelle Monae arrives for the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The gala is known for its extravagance, and Janelle Monae added to that reputationImage: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

A new exhibition on Karl Lagerfeld

The invitation-only event, famed for its A-list celebrities and flamboyant attire, is a benefit for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and marks the opening of the Costume Institute's annual display.

The upcoming exhibition "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty," on show from May 5 to July 16, remembers the life and times of the German designer, who was creative director for brands such as Chanel and Fendi.

Nigerian singer Tems at the New York Met Gala 2023 Metropolitan Museum
Nigerian singer Tems wore a flamboyant headpieceImage: ANGELA WEISS/AFP

Australian director Baz Luhrmann, who cooperated with Lagerfeld on a Chanel No. 5 commercial starring compatriot Kidman, had fond memories of the designer, saying he was constantly working, learning and creating.

American designer Michael Kors also remembered the man with the signature white hair, black sunglasses, fingerless gloves and high, starched, detachable collars. "Karl loved romantic but he also loved something a little edgy and nasty," Kors said.

Michaela Coel at the 2023 Costume Institute Benefit Gala celebrating the opening of "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty Exhibition"
Michaela Coel was this year's Met Gala co-chairImage: DPRF/STAR MAX/IP/picture alliance

Lagerfeld's legacy reappraised

The decision to honor Lagerfeld did prompt criticism from some quarters.

British actor Jameela Jamil condemned the decision to remember Lagerfeld in such a gushing manner, as she reminded her Instagram followers of the "distinctly hateful" way the designer attacked marginalized groups

The designer was notorious for his unfiltered comments, which are now condemned by various critics as fatphobic, Islamophobic or misogynistic. In the last years of his life, Lagerfeld also derided the #MeToo movement and those who came forward with claims of sexual misconduct.

However, the exhibition avoids this thorny aspect of his persona: "The show is really focusing on Karl the designer, his works rather than his words," said Costume Institute head curator Andrew Bolton. "We haven't included any of his more controversial or offensive comments."

The Met Gala also mainly focused on Lagerfeld's creative genius.

Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, who has presided over the Gala for almost 20 years, said Lagerfeld was unafraid of being himself. 

Anna Wintour and Roger Federer at the Met Gala
Wintour, seen here alongside Federer, defended the decision to honor LagerfeldImage: Sonia Moskowitz Gordon/Zuma/picture alliance

Retired tennis stars Roger Federer, a close friend of Wintour's, and Serena Williams, who revealed that she was pregnant at the star-studded event, were also in attendance but went for far more modest numbers than others.

US tennis player Serena Williams arrives for the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Serena Williams announced she is pregnantImage: ANGELA WEISS/AFP

The final word went to Rihanna, as she was the last to stroll up the stairs: Encased in white camellias on a jacket with an all white, hooded Valentino gown, she told reporters she was feeling "expensive."

Rihanna attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty" exhibition
Rihanna was the last to saunter up the famous stepsImage: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/picture alliance

jsi/eg (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)