Row over Met Gala's tribute to Karl Lagerfeld - BBC News
Copyright Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

by Amy Jones

The 2023 Met Gala looks are in, and the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty ” theme was well represented by the hottest A list centuries. One thing that stood out, especially amongst the star-studded event, is the ‘old’ and recycled looks we have seen showcased across the red carpets. Everyone has anticipated what the event would entail, with many of the past themes of the Met Gala poorly represented by the rebellious celebs. Thankfully, the guests of this year’s event took the hint from the show’s organiser Anna Wintour and honoured Karls’s legacy in some of his most iconic and timeless pieces.

So how does sustainability tie into all of this? As mentioned many of the looks that were worn during the night were originals of Karls’s past work. There were of course some alterations, and some stars had to settle for replicas, however, it sparked the conversation as to whether fashion is heading, and vintage is the new hottest topic. Sustainable fashion is a big topic of concentration due to the irreparable damage that fast fashion is placing on the environment. 

The biggest brands, including Chanel, are making a statement by bringing back their most timeless pieces and enriching the most influential people to re-wear the garments of their closets. 

This however is not enough. Sustainability is more about wearing vintage fashion, it is instead more about limiting our consumption of materials and also opting for materials that can be recycled or at least be biodegradable. With up to 92 million tonnes of textile waste being produced each year, celebrities sporting vintage and reused fashion is the bare minimum that they should be doing with their influential power.

Who wore the best looks?

Some of the most iconic vintage looks of the night were supported by good friends of Karl Langerfields, including Nicole Kidman, Gisele Bundchen, and also Naomi Campbell.

Nicole Kidman, in true Hollywood style, wore a pale pink feathered vintage Chanel gown, a gown that she wore back in 2004 for the Chanel No5 perfume advertisement. The dress which was created by Karl at the time is a true embodiment of the impact that Karl had on the fashion industry, and how his creations are timeless nearly 20 years on. In our option, this was the best statement piece of the night, a true homage to Karl and his legacy.

Likewise, Gisele Bundchen, who also was a model in an editorial for a Chanel No5, wore the exact gown that she previously wore for her editorial which took place around 2007. The dress was dramatic, bold, and elegant all at the same time. 

Many of the pieces that were supported by the celebrities were decades old and still looked like something fresh off the catwalk. It begs the question of why we all feel the need to follow the latest trends when there are so many beautiful textiles that already exist. Also, would we be doing the planet a favour by cutting back on the new ‘trends’ that are set by celebrities, and instead see them wear recyclable styles that never go out of fashion?

Are replicas damaging?

Understandably, many of the guests who attended the Met Gala did not all individually have gowns bespoke made by Karl during his lifetime, therefore they had to settle with replicas that were made of his past looks. The replacement, whilst mirroring and breathtaking, is not a positive step towards sustainability. Vintage fashion should be used, but if we hope to reduce our consumption of damaging materials, they should not be replicated. One of the prime examples of vintage fashion being taken advantage of is the Y2K trend that took over around the time of 2020. The major fast fashion websites got the hint, they started mass-producing unethical, cheaply made clothing to distribute worldwide. 

Are celebrities the key to sustainable fashion?

There is no denying the influential impact that celebrities have on the fashion industry. Some would say they are the driving force as to what is going to trend, and what styles are going to go out of fashion. Celebrities wearing vintage at the Met Gala is a step in the right direction, however, we need to see more movement and impact. The responsibility is not only on the people starting the trends, we as consumers also have a large responsibility in making better choices when consuming fashion. 

Greenwashing is rife 

Additionally, as consumers, we should also be conscious of the greenwashing that is rife across the industry at present. Greenwashing is the misrepresentation of environmentally damaging brands giving the illusion to consumers that they are a part of the sustainable movement. Take Boohoo for example. They started their marketplace for re-selling fashion pieces, whilst continuing their mass production of garments and exploiting workers in low economic countries. Celebrities at the Met Gala are just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more work that needs to be done by the influential people in our society, us and consumers, but most important the corporations who are continuing their destruction of the environment. 

Final thoughts 

Overall, the vintage fashion that was showcased at the Met Gala was an important step towards sustainability. Some may say sustainability was just an extra benefit of celebrities wearing their treasured looks created by their dear late friend Karl Lagerfeld, but we would hope that this theme was meticulously chosen to drive the fashion force toward the direction of sustainability. We can all take steps to be more sustainable with our fashion choices. Whether we go extreme and opt for a vintage engagement ring, or we buy our fashion from charity shops, there is room for small change for all of us. It is up to all of us, not just the celebrities of today.