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The Met Gala Chewed Up & Spit Out Gen Z

Get ready! It’s almost time for fashion’s biggest evening, the one where we all curl up together at home to judge and admire everybody’s outfits. And no, I’m not talking about our infamous Euphoria nights, but the glamorous 2022 Met Gala, which will take place on May 2

After two years, the ceremony will happen on its traditional date, the first Monday of May. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was postponed in 2020, and last year’s Met Gala occurred on September 13, presenting the theme “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” This year’s theme will be a continuation of that concept, and it celebrates the second half of a two-part Costume Institute exhibition. The theme for part two is “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” On March 17, Vogue announced Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Regina King, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as co-chairs for the event. The announcement came as a surprise to Gen Z, since last year saw Gen Z icons — Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka — in this honorable position.

The Met Gala isn’t broadcasted beyond the red carpet, so even though we can’t watch what happens at the actual event and dinner celebration, and we can’t see the co-chairs in action, the decision still affects viewers who are keeping up with the event at home. At the Met Gala, co-chairs may help with the guest list, the decoration, and the food. They play a key role in how the evening’s going to go. Last year represented the first time in Met Gala history that Gen Z’ers were chosen to be co-chairs. Our generation is known for its political activism, as well as for our awareness of social issues and interest in making a change. Having Gen Z co-chairs meant that hopefully, we’d see a more political side of fashion’s biggest night — no performative activism allowed.

The decision to put Gen Z stars as co-chairs came with the hopes for a more politically inclined celebration and a more diverse event. In previous years, many Met Gala attendees were accused of cultural appropriation and stereotyping cultures. The event was criticized for lack of representation among the attendees and designers. The Met Gala has also been accused of only inviting skinny celebrities. Admittedly, last year, even though we saw more diversity, it was still not enough. The 2021 Met Gala (and every other Met Gala before that) had a lack of BIPOC designers.

But for that one night, Gen Z’s influence on the event did push the Met Gala toward greater social awareness. Billie Eilish walked the Met Gala red carpet last year wearing a Marilyn Monroe-inspired Oscar de la Renta gown. The dress was completely silk-free, and it represented a new era for the brand. Eilish, who is vegan, convinced the brand to go completely fur-free, not only for the Met Gala but for all its sales. This decision comes after years of activists begging the brand to stop using animal products, for the sake of animals’ rights and the environmental impact that non-vegan materials have on the planet. In an interview with Vogue, Ashley Gill, senior director of standards and stakeholder engagement at materials non-profit Textile Exchange, said that materials like leather have higher GHG emissions than vegan materials used in the fashion industry. Selecting Gen Z co-chairs and giving them the platform to enact social change pushes the Met Gala, an event that has often been criticized for being a playground for the wealthy class’s frivolity, toward a more socially aware future.

Oscar de la Renta wasn’t the only one who went vegan that night. The Met Gala itself had a completely vegan menu in 2021, created by 10 New York-based chefs (remember how co-chairs can have some say over the food?). The idea was to celebrate NYC flourishing again with restaurants being re-opened after the impact of the pandemic.

The Met Gala is fashion’s biggest night, but it’s been years since we all started noticing that we’re not interested in seeing rich people showcasing how rich they are. Fashion’s biggest night should be inspiring, and it should include and highlight a diverse group of people. Having Gen Z as co-chairs last year, a generation involved in changing the status quo, meant that we were headed in the right direction. This isn’t to say that the 2022 chairs are definitely going to undo all or any of that progress, however. It’s just a loss for Gen Z’s brief time in the driver’s seat to advocate for change that is long overdue. 

RIP to 2021’s Met Gala, but here’s to all the other ones that will come. Even if Gen Z isn’t involved, we’ll all be at home watching and asking for improvements.

Carolina is a national contributing writer and was formerly a summer and fall 2021 editorial intern at Her Campus. She's a Brazilian journalist and writer, and she's very passionate about TikTok, coffee shops, and Taylor Swift.
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