Fashion Critic Weighs In On The Met Gala’s Looks : NPR

Monday night, the Gala made its return. NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly talks with Rachel Tashjian, fashion critic at GQ about the interpretations of this year’s theme: American Independence.



MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now we turn to what is – for the fashion industry, at least – one of the biggest events of the year, the Met Gala. If you’re not familiar, it’s a fundraiser for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oh, but it is so much more. The guest list includes the rich, the powerful and the beautifully, elaborately dressed. The gala theme this year, American independence, which led to plenty of politically charged interpretations. The musician Grimes brought with her a medieval-style sword made from a melted down assault rifle, while Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez donned a sleek white dress emblazoned with giant red words – tax the rich – running down the back.

Well, joining us to talk through this, talk through the politics and fashion of this year’s Met Gala is GQ fashion critic Rachel Tashjian.

Rachel, welcome.

RACHEL TASHJIAN: Thank you.

KELLY: Glad to have you with us. Let’s start with the AOC dress, which has been all over social media. What was your initial reaction to it?

TASHJIAN: Yeah. So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is someone who is actually pretty invested in the New York fashion community. You know, she’s someone who wore a Telfar bag, you know, as she was going into Congress late last year. And that caused a big sort of viral moment for that designer. And he’s a Queens-based designer. So for this Met Gala, she decided to go with the designer Aurora James, who’s – she’s won the CFDA award. She designs a brand called Brother Vellies. And they created this dress together that says tax the rich on the back.

And it created, I think, actually, this kind of incredible sort of old-school, glamorous moment of her peeking over her shoulder with sort of a wink to the photographers, which I think is sort of a classic kind of representation of how AOC manages her own sort of celebrity and her awareness of her power as a kind of image maker in a way. First of all, it was quite effective, I have to say, because it ended up that tax the rich was one of the most Googled phrases of the night. But it’s quite a statement to go into a room where there’s that much money and power and to bring that kind of controversial, confrontational message, I think.

KELLY: At the same time, there were a lot of people arguing that her presence at the Gala and in a fancy designer dress, that that is somehow antithetical to her persona, you know, a carefully crafted persona that’s all about progressive politics and fighting for the people. And it’s interesting to watch how she straddles that. Do you think there’s any validity to that critique?

TASHJIAN: I have to tell you, I really don’t (laughter). You know, it’s interesting. If you look at having this kind of, like, year and a half off from the Met Gala really showed kind of, I think, a shift in our own larger conversation about fashion and about appearance and vanity, glamour and interest in beauty and that sort of thing. You know, even if you look at maybe five or 10 years ago, a lot of fashion reporters felt like, oh, is it OK for us to look at what politicians wear, to discuss what they wear? Is that demeaning?

And there’s been a huge shift, I think, over the past five years, especially with the Trump administration that was so aesthetically driven. We’ve had this realization that you can’t not look at what people are wearing. You know, like, it tells us so much about what that person believes and what they represent, what they stand for, even if they themselves aren’t wearing it, you know, written on the back of their dress or on a T-shirt or, as Melania Trump once did, on the back of a jacket. We’ve all just become so much more attuned to looking at and critiquing and reading clothing. I mean, we’ve all sort of become fashion critics in a way. I mean, it’s pretty wild.

KELLY: I wonder if you also saw – setting the politics aside for a moment – something of a generational shift on the red carpet last night as we all emerged from a year and a half of lockdown.

TASHJIAN: Yeah, certainly. I mean, I think there were – many of the attendees were, you know, skewed a lot younger than we would have seen even like a year and a half ago. You know, we had the photographer Tyler Mitchell and also the musician Lorde, who were both wearing Bode. And this is something that I think is really interesting that many of these kind of younger attendees opted to wear newer American designers, you know. And these are people who are not necessarily household names like Emily Adams Bode or, you know, ASAP Rocky wore the California-based designer Eli Russell Linnetz. You know, a lot of these kinds of designers who are not necessarily household names but are really exciting and essential voices in American fashion. And I think, you know, having these young, exciting people wearing these kind of lesser-known designers, it sort of is a possibility for those designers to become household names like Ralph Lauren.

KELLY: That is Rachel Tashjian, fashion critic at GQ.

Thank you.

TASHJIAN: Thank you so much.

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