All eyes are focused on the Met Gala to see designers push the boundaries of fashion. But, all eyes also focus on a historically exclusive fashion industry that has been slow to embrace inclusion.
Met Gala's most prominent invitees are encouraged not to stick to the traditional red carpet look. Past examples include crystalized miter caps, dresses with dripping-wet optical illusions and unexplained green robot kids. These outfits draw attention to celebrities and fashion houses as they try to get on the unofficial list of best dressed gala guests.
Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour often selects celebrities to attend the Met ball. After the industry faced accusations of being too exclusive in the past, changes were made to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's look.
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Dawnn Karen, a fashion psychologist and founder of Fashion Psychology Success, says that every year there is a who's-who of those invited to attend. The Met Gala doesn't highlight fashion if it isn’t inclusive. ... (The guestlist) tells you what they value and what they don't value.
Experts argue that high fashion cannot be truly inclusive without a diverse group of people making the decisions. The industry's desire to sell an unrealistic, unattainable dream may make it impossible for the industry to evolve until cultural standards of beauty are changed or new talent is accepted.
The gala made two important steps forward last year by inviting Jackie Aina (beauty influencer and first Black content creator to attend the Met Gala) and Nikkie de Jager (youtuber), who paid tribute to Marsha P. Johnson through her gown. The event took a step back when it neglected a few Black designers.
Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton corrected the invite list for the 2021 gala. He paid for tickets to three Black designers, Edvin Thompson of Theophilio and Kenneth Nicholson, in order to attend the industry's most important event.
Lewis posted on Instagram that "these designers" deserved the moment as much as any other designer attending the Met Gala.
Tracy Reese is a fashion designer who sits on the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s board of directors. She has been in the industry more than 30 years and says that minority designers were "disappointed" by the thought of never attending the gala.
"We see more color at the red carpet. Reese states that industry representation has been limited for designers of color.
Although young designers from minorities are often overlooked, gala's legacy designer team is always present, even when they make mistakes in diversity and inclusion.
Met Gala designers' history with missteps
Iman, a supermodel turned heads with her Dolce and Gabbana (designed and made by Harris Reed) gown to the Met Gala last year. The fashion house sued fashion bloggers who posted anti-Asian comments that were allegedly made by one of its designers months prior.
After launching designs that caused controversy over blackface, Gucci and Prada each got their turn under the spotlight.
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Aina says that social media played a part in the backlash facing fashion houses. You can't ignore a lack in diversity. People will make noise and call you out, making it harder to keep things under control. "Budding designers are the key to fashion's inclusive future
Being fashionable is synonymous with being forward-thinking. Budding designers may be a great way to reach established labels, while legacy label recognition could help up-and-coming artists.
Karen believes the reason there is a gap between major fashion houses and new designers is that the former is often too high up to see what's below them.
Reese states, "Those opportunities must be created for gatekeepers as well as newcomers to even communicate." It's encouraging to see how many emerging designers of color are being chosen for prizes like the (CDFA) fashion fund or Woolmark prize.
Exposure moments, such as the Met Gala, can be crucial in bringing new culture and fashion to young talent.
Karen states, "It's much easier to integrate that ethos of diversity & inclusion if it's starting from scratch rather than trying to steer a large ship in a new direction."
The world is waiting to see their favorite celeb, but the industry can benefit from taking note of the people they have left out.
The fashion industry is still dominated by white men. A report shows that there is still a long way to go before we can truly be inclusive.
Reese believes it is "necessary” for us to include new voices within fashion. If the industry does not, it will become complacent and irrelevant as last season's wardrobe.