ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: I can't wait to see stars at this year's Met Gala
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: I can’t wait to see stars Chanel their inner Karl at this year’s Met Gala
Tomorrow’s annual Met Gala in New York will, as always, be masterminded by Anna Wintour.
She was a close friend of the designer Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019 and who is the theme of the evening and the subject of this year’s Costume Institute exhibition.
Knowing Wintour’s love of tennis, Lagerfeld once built a court for the Vogue chief at his home in Biarritz so she could have her daily game when she visited. The Met Ball is certainly a substantial payback.
Karl would be very sad to miss this occasion, which will see scores of celebrities togged up in costumes that reference his days at Chanel but also at Balmain, at his eponymous label, and at Fendi, the fur house.
Think of the most splendid tribute band, as famous folk pose on the endless red carpet in fabulous vintage and their own interpretations of his look.
Light touch: Katy Perry as a Moschino chandelier at 2019’s gala
Stiff, high white collars, black and white, leather, short fitted jackets, skin-tight trousers and powdered hair will all no doubt be on display.
While Coco Chanel was famous for a sleek, quiet chic, when Lagerfeld took over the house he realised how much of contemporary fashion is about showiness.
This is why it’s so fitting he should be the theme of this bash, where the over-the-top display of celebrities showing off is arguably more famous than the Metropolitan Museum Of Art itself, or the Costume Institute, which benefits from funds raised.
And Karl would totally have got that, because he was the maestro of spectacular branding, always aware of the increasing truth of the cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words.
His understanding of how our culture would become so dependent on the quick fix of visually arresting social media posts was truly prophetic.
His major skill at Chanel was making the house, and himself, internationally recognised. No avatar could be more surreal than his own carefully created appearance behind dark glasses, with corset-like high-neck collars, leather gloves, thick foundation and a way of firing out decisive bon mots that didn’t encourage debate.
And as the years passed, no other fashion houses could rival the extravagant shows he staged.
One season we sat in a vast supermarket set, including Chanel trolleys and branded cereal boxes.
At another he produced a space station complete with a rocket launch, and there was one, possibly ill-judged, when he created a mock Parisian boulevard peopled by Chanel-clad models in a faux feminist protest. The publicity was enormous.
The Met Gala functions similarly. The more ludicrous and odd someone looks, the more they generate clicks online.
Rihanna dressed as a fried egg. Kim Kardashian as a masked Balenciaga catwoman. Katy Perry as a crystal Moschino chandelier.
All get the Costume Institute far greater recognition, funding and visitors than the previously elegant black-tie dinners ever did.
For a museum that honours the culture and treasures of the ages, it could be thought a mismatch that this gala’s big sell is the outrageous excess of the event. But on the other hand, perhaps that actually reflects contemporary civilisation.
Let’s hear it for the fabulous snowflakes
IT’S very unfair that the word snowflake has got such a bad reputation, because it is used to describe feeble young people and recalcitrant civil servants. Snowflakes are surely one of the great wonders of the world – each six-sided crystal a result of an 108-degree angle formed by atoms of hydrogen and oxygen in a molecule of water. No two are identical. They’re superlative, not pathetic.
At last! Mr Slobby dresses to impress
I fear it’s a predictable mum comment, but didn’t Ed Sheeran look much improved all spruced up when he appeared at Manhattan’s Federal Court to defend himself in another copyright battle?
The singer, something of a patron saint of slob dressing, sensibly took the view that to press his case in New York he needed to look like an honourable, serious guy and was transformed by his navy blazer, shiny shoes and neat shirt and tie.
It was a reminder that as stores stop selling suits and with formal jackets and trousers considered less comfortable to wear than some of the more relaxed and increasingly popular alternatives, almost all men simply look better in them.
I’ve given pastry the quiche of death
It’s a pity that the commemorative recipe for the big day is Coronation quiche. It involves handling pastry – something where my track record is dire.
Even with a ready-made option whipped out of the freezer, I’ve never succeeded in baking something with the right degree of crispness.
Let alone getting it out of the case in one piece. It’s either depressingly soggy or more like a biscuit.
I wish our new monarch’s culinary advisers had come up with something a bit more user-friendly. I’m veering towards the smoked salmon bagel option.
To be or not to be a convincing Burton
The Motive And The Cue, opening at the National Theatre, is the latest production chronicling a real-life incident – in this case the story of the acrimony and pathos behind the scenes of John Gielgud directing Richard Burton in Hamlet.
Such plays and films largely succeed or fail on how accurately the actors conjure up their character.
No matter how excellent the script, if we don’t believe in them, the show won’t work. For my money, Mark Gatiss’s Gielgud is excellent but both Tuppence Middleton’s Elizabeth Taylor and Johnny Flynn’s Burton never quite manage to evoke the damaged magnetism of the originals.
A little lesson in understatement
My partner and I are spending the weekend with friends in Majorca in what I described to someone as their ‘little’ house.
They asked why British people always describe second homes as ‘little’, even if, as I had to admit, their house is not little at all.
He was right. Though it wasn’t my home I was referring to, I didn’t want to be seen to be showing off on either my friends’, or my own, account.
So now the truth. We’re staying in a perfectly large house set in orange groves with a fabulous terrace overlooking the mountainside. And there should be blazing sunshine.
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