How Gen Z Puts Fashion On Its Head

The Met Gala has for years been the bastion of the fashion establishment and was presided over by none less than the formidable Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue USA until 2020 and it is generally considered the Party of the Year.

This year – though – it was all quite different. After skipping a year and being held in September rather than on the usual first Monday in May, the big change was how younger generations – and newly famous social media influencers - dominated the red carpet. Timothée Chalamet, Naomi Osaka, Billie Eilish and Amanda Gorman were all co-chairs of the event, making them some of the youngest the Met has ever had. These four managed to surprise everyone by organizing a great event, with a great theme AND wearing some of the best looks of the night.

Even with a vague theme, “In America: A lexicon of fashion”, the young stars stole the show. So how did they manage to change the red carpet looks and use this moment – where a good part of the whole world is watching – to express their views?

Billie Eilish wore a corseted, blush, tulle gown by Oscar de la Renta at the 2021 Met Gala

Billie Eilish wore a corseted, blush, tulle gown by Oscar de la Renta, inspired by the iconic Marilyn Monroe, complete with a 15 feet train. However, the dress itself was not the main show. As expected from an influential Generation G figure, the singer used this opportunity and her 93,4 million Instagram followers, to convince de la Renta to drop fur from all its collections going forward. In her own words: “it was an honor to wear this dress knowing that going forward Oscar de la Renta will be completely fur-free!”. Billie Eilish – at 19 - is most likely the only and first Met Gala guest who prompted a definitive ethical change in a fashion house as a condition to wear one of their ‘works’ (Independent).

Amanda Gorman, a young woman and Poet, famous after reading her own poem, “The Hill We Climb”, at Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration, represents – through her words - the younger generation’s desire for political consciousness and justice (centennial). She chose the perfectly symbolic outfit, reflecting the Statue of Liberty. Her stunning royal-blue Vera Wang gown, short in front and long in the back, decorated with shiny stones was worthy of the Met. The real red carpet news came when the Harvard Alum announced that she is now Estée Lauder’s Global Changemaker. In this role she will serve as the curator for the initiative called “Writing change”. The goal is to activate social change through literacy for women and girls. “I am delighted that our partnership”, she said, “will help inspire women, girls, and all people around the world to do great things, to disrupt, to be confident, and to be future leaders in whatever path they take.” (thecut).

Timothée Chalamet and Naomi Osaka did not disappoint either, although they did not aim to make a wider statement with their outfits. Chamalet, the talented actor, has been given the title of ‘most influential man in fashion’ by Vogue , which recognition is even better knowing that he chooses his own red carpet outfits. No stylist involved. His style often shifts between feminine and masculine. To the Met Gala he chose to wear an all-white ensemble by Haider Ackermann, composed by a tuxedo jacket that he matched with white sweats and converse shoes.

Then there was the trailblazer, Naomi Osaka, the pro tennis player, now also a fashion icon and a politically outspoken Gen Z star, who has been very vocal about mental health issues in sports. She wore a custom corseted Louis Vuitton dress full of colors and bold prints covered by a silk black cape. The dress, much like Osaka, had much to say. The print used was taken by a digital watercolour art piece made by Osaka’s sister Mari and the Koi fish used are a nod to their Japanese heritage.

Overall, the 2021 Met Gala reflected the growing influence that Gen Z has on today’s world and the contribution it is making to it. Bringing style and activism together and using their platforms as a force for change, these young stars are shaping not only the future of fashion, but are rocking the foundations of all that what ‘always was’. About time.

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