Why is the Met Gala 2023 theme facing backlash? EYNTK about the Karl Lagerfeld controversy

The Met Gala 2023 theme is causing major backlash with a Karl Lagerfeld controversy swarming the internet

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfield arrives for the annual Rose Ball at the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club in Monaco, on March 19, 2016. / on a green background
(Image credit: Getty Images / VALERY HACHE/AFP)

The Met Gala is—by all accounts—one of the biggest fashion events of the year. It sees celebs dress up to the nines, with their fits all inspired (albeit sometimes very loosely) on a theme. Often said theme sparks online discourse—especially when stars really miss the mark or the fashion concept itself is hard to decipher. However, the Met Gala 2023 theme is causing a whole different kind of backlash.

As many fashion fans will know, the Met Gala is often a source of controversy—like during the Met Gala 2022 when only Blake Lively and her dress reveal seemed to understand the assignment. Though it usually revolves around fashion faux pas or fan-favorite celebs either being no-shows (like Zendaya's absence last year) or not receiving an invite. This year’s gala—which takes place a the MET museum in New York—is a different story. Here’s what you need to know…

Following the announcement of the theme by Vogue, the internet ignited—with celebs like Jameela Jamil voicing their disgust. So, what is the theme exactly and why are people so upset with it?

What is the Met Gala 2023 theme? 

The theme of the Met Gala 2023 will honor the late Karl Lagerfield—who is known for being the creative director for Chanel and Chloe. The theme for the Met Museum’s spring 2023 Costume Institute exhibition has been announced as: “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” 

This is not the first time that the gala has honored a fashion designer—in 2017 the theme was devoted to the brand Comme des Garçons and its founder Rei Kawakub and to Alexander McQueen in 2011.

And while Karl Lagerfield is a big name in the fashion industry, with the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner having walked in his shows, his ‘legacy’ is marred with controversy—from his comments against the LGBTQ+ community to his public ‘fatphobic’ statements.

Karl Lagerfeld controversy: What exactly is going on? 

What is Karl Lagerfield best known for?

Before we dive into the controversy itself—if you’re not familiar with the German designer, he is perhaps best known as the creative director of Chanel, having held the position from 1983 until his death in 2019.

He was also the creative director for brands like Chloe and Fendi, created his own eponymous fashion label and is attributed to having created Chanel's famous interlocking CC logo.

The Met Gala 2023 Karl Lagerfeld controversy

Following the announcement, droves of people have taken to Twitter to share their horror at the gala being dedicated to the designer, who throughout his life is known to have made some very controversial statements about women’s bodies, the MeToo movement and same-sex marriage.

To give just a few examples, in 2012, Lagerfield landed himself in hot water after commenting on Lana Del Ray’s body—though at the time his comments were believed to be about Adele.

He told the Metro: “She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice,” before later apologizing and saying, “I’d like to say to Adele that ‘I am your biggest admirer. Sometimes when you take a sentence out of the article it changes the meaning of the thought. What I said was in relation to Lana Del Rey and the sentence has since been taken out of context from how it was originally published'.” 

He also previously dubbed model Heidi Klum, "simply too heavy and has too big a bust."

According to the Independent, Lagerfield also once said on an episode of Le Grand 8 on French TV channel D8, “no one wants to see curvy women on the runway.”

He also faced backlash after he publicly defended Karl Templar, the creative director at Interview magazine, after he was hit with sexual misconduct allegations, before saying in an interview with Numéro magazine (quoted by Glamour here)  that he was "fed up" with the MeToo movement in 2018.

In 2010, Lagerfield also told Vice magazine that he was "against" same-sex marriage, saying: “I’m against [gay marriage] for a very simple reason: In the 60s, they all said we had the right to the difference. And now, suddenly, they want a bourgeois life.” 

The list goes on…

What has Jameela Jamil said about Karl Lagerfeld? 

Actress Jameela Jamil, who is known for her roles in The Good Place and the MCU's She-Hulk, is among the few celebs to call out the theme, taking to Instagram to write: “Karl Lagerfeld is the theme for the entire Met Gala next year. This man... was indeed, supremely talented, but used his platform in such a distinctly hateful way, mostly towards women, so repeatedly and up until the last years of his life, showing no remorse, offering no atonement, no apology, no help to groups he attacked... there was no explanation for his cruel outbursts. Swipe for receipts.

“Those groups were women who were sexually assaulted, the entire me too movement, gay couples who wanted to adopt, all fat people, specifically fat women, and some of his greatest harm was against Muslim refugees and the disgusting way he spoke about people fleeing their homes for fear of their lives.”

Jamil continued, “Why is THIS who we celebrate when there are so many AMAZING designers out there who aren't bigoted white men? What happened to everyone's principles and "advocacy." You don't get to stand for justice in these areas, and then attend the celebration of someone who revealed in his own public disdain for marginalized people.

“Sorry, but no. This isn't the 90s. We didn't fight all this shit just to throw it all away because some white guy made some pretty clothes for people's skinny faves...come on now.”

What else has been said about the Karl Lagerfeld controversy? 

In response to the announcement, Twitter user @SukiGabi said: “Regarding the next Met Gala theme focused on Karl Lagerfeld. As much as he contributed to the fashion industry, we should not be celebrating a person who made fatphobic, racist, and sexist comments throughout his career.”

With another user commenting, “it's the official theme.......? I'm devastated.”

Fashion magazine Vogue, who hosts the Met Gala, has yet to address the backlash.

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.