The controversy over the Met Gala and Karl Lagerfeld

KARL AND ANNA together at the British Fashion Awards in 2015 at the London Coliseum. Mike Marsland/WireImage via Getty Images

Daniella Flores | News Editor & Publicity Manager 

May 5, 2023

On Monday, celebrities, designers, and high-profile media executives gathered for the annual Met-Gala. The Met-Gala is a themed fundraising event that marks the opening of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s latest exhibition. The event is always organized by Anna Wintour, the editor-and-chief of Vogue.

This year, the theme was not a concept but a person: “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” the late designer who died in 2019 at the age of 85. Lagerfeld was the long-time creative director for Chanel. While Lagerfeld was known for his exquisite couture, he was also known for his controversial comments surrounding women, immigrants, and many other marginalized groups. 

“As much as I love the Met, I think there were definitely other themes that they could have chosen.” San Clemente High School freshman Ava Echternach said.

Lagerfeld is representative of the immense talent in the fashion world, along with an older generation of men in power who proclaimed widely offensive views. 

“KARL LAGERFELD: A LINE OF BEAUTY” is the theme for the Met-Gala and exhibition this year.

In 2005, Lagerfeld published a dieting book entitled “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” which detailed his experience losing 92 pounds in just over one year. Lagerfeld was extremely vocal about the link between body image and fashion. Lagerfeld said things like junk food and television were more dangerous than anorexia. He explained that fashion is “the healthiest motivation for losing weight.” 

Lagerfeld called award-winning singer Adele “too fat,” back-tracking when he mischaracterized her for Lana Del Rey. In a 2009 interview with the German magazine, Focus, he reported that Heidi Klum was “too heavy” and “nobody wants to see curvy women.” 

Along with his fatphobic and misogynistic comments, he drew controversy when in 2010 he put German model Claudia Schiffer in blackface and yellowface for the magazine Stern Fotografie. 

In 2017, on a French talk show, Lagerfeld called Muslim migrants in Germany an “affront to Holocaust.” Lagerfeld also offered his opinion on the #MeToo movement, saying that he was “fed up with it.” He went to the extent of saying, “If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even.” 

“I find it very hard to believe that so many of these celebrities and designers decided to support such a controversial figure,” SCHS senior Tessa Campbell said. “Especially knowing of the gruesome comments he made.”

Despite Lagerfeld’s long history of offensive remarks, the fashion industry has still celebrated him as a creative genius. Thus, for this year’s Met, many of the officials were willing to put aside his problematic past for the sake of his art. 

The exhibition will feature 200 of Lagerfeld’s pieces, with a guest list featuring “the people that have known and loved and supported Karl over the years,” according to Wintour. Many of the invited guests opted out of attending the Met because of the man it celebrated.

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