“Taste is an awful word and no one should ever use it,” announced Marc Jacobs at his Spring Summer ’11 Louis Vuitton show. On the day in Paris (a city he likened backstage to frosted cake,) guests arrived to find a quote from Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Camp: Notes On Fashion”, then Kristina Salinovic kicked things off with a white streak in her hair, in homage to Sontag’s own look. The Croatian model also walked the runway in a dress covered in crystals, to the tune of around $20,000.
Two weeks have gone by since the first Monday in May, on which the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York annually plays host to fashion’s biggest event, but the chatter surrounding it is yet to die down. Upon discovering that this year’s theme was based on the same essay, the countdown began to spot who Jacobs would dress and, after seeing the twinkling blazer he dazzled in as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, the fabulous heeled Gucci boots he wore to get hitched, and the Chanel jacket he matched to a Basquiat painting, to get a glimpse of what the designer would wear himself to the gala. After all, if anyone can convince us to abandon judgment on what’s good or bad taste and focus on fashion being fun, frivolous and extravagant, it’s him.
Not a slither of disappointment came, because not only did Jacobs outfit Lady Gaga for the pre-event dinner in a voluminous striped dress from his Fall Winter ’19 collection, he ascended the Met’s iconic — and this time pink carpeted — steps on the night with Kate Moss, Rita Ora and Lizzo as his dates, all wearing custom Marc Jacobs. Naturally, new husband Char Defrancesco was also in tow, clutching a tasseled guipure lace fan from his other half’s Louis Vuitton show 9 years ago.
Chatting over email about this year’s theme, Jacobs revealed to me his interpretation of the word which became the basis of the Costume Institute’s latest major exhibition: “Camp means to me a love of artifice. An exaggerated gesture delivered with great affectation. A pose. Sequins, feathers, animal prints,” he mused, before listing both Art Deco and Art Nouveau as references, much like he did to journalists on October 6th, 2010.
I delved a little deeper about the inspiration behind Jacobs’ look on the night when he was certainly #dressednotstressed, and gained insights about his thinking behind Kate, Rita and Lizzo’s incredible Met Camp outfits.
“Camp taste has an affinity for certain arts rather than others. Clothes, furniture, all the elements of visual décor, for instance, make up is a large part of Camp,” writes Sontag in her essay, which Jacobs perfectly demonstrated at the event, along with the likes of Darren Criss and Ezra Miller. “My make up was done by Phuong Tan using Marc Jacobs Beauty products, starting with our new moisturizer Youthquake.” Youthquake is the brand’s first foray in skincare and is launching with a bang considering co-chair Lady Gaga wore the multitasking gel-crème on the Monday night. “We experimented a bit with variations on my eyes,” the designer goes on to say of the eye shadow, liner lash and brow choices.
“I took inspiration from Les Années Folles, Cabaret and Seventies Glam,” divulges Jacobs when asked about his references. “Eric Williams is the hairdresser who did my finger waves,” he continues, recalling that his hair was dyed and cut before a trim and shaping of his beard ensured that everything perfectly lined up. As for his sandals, “the idea for Saint Laurent shoes came to me the week before Met. I remembered seeing the perfect style at the Saint Laurent boutique.”
“I LOVED my nails. I’m still wearing them,” enthuses Jacobs, detailing that he wore Marc Jacobs Beauty’s Jezebel lacquer on his fingers and Lola on his toes. “Jin Soon (Choi) always does my nails and the nails for our shows. I love her!” The latter polish peeked out through black fishnet tights on the night, which the designer picked up from dancewear brand Capezio — another wink to performers who wowed the art and literary crowd in Paris when they frequented thriving jazz hotspots in the twenties.
With her sunglasses on and a coffee cup in hand, Anna Wintour describes what happens on the Met Gala’s steps as “a kind of theatre” in Andrew Rossi’s 2016 documentary, and this year the bar was set very high when Gaga unveiled four different looks before she even stepped inside the building. Even though American Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief declared that everyone else might as well just go home after that, if anyone could follow Gaga, it was going to be Lizzo, who had photographers scrambling to capture her fluffy full-length opera coat. Marc told us that the team all loved the idea of Lizzo in “loads of ostrich feathers with dyed pink tips,” which clearly nods to an iconic line from the essay: “The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers.” The singer and rapper, who later performed at the after party, adored her coat so much that she rocked up to the airport in it the next day, flouncing straight into Upper Class and making sure the whole thing was documented on Instagram.
Kate Moss & Rita Ora
“We always look for some input from the girls so that they love what they’re wearing, and it won’t wear them,” explains Jacobs of the starting point for both Kate and Rita’s Met Gala looks. The designer told us that Joseph Carter and the design team begin by researching, then he weighs in on what he would like to see before everyone re-joins the conversation about dresses, hair and beauty. More research about embroidery follows, before finally toiles are made and fittings are done. “We loved the idea of Rita and Kate looking old school Hollywood glam. Silver sequins on Kate and gold ones on Rita.” Before signing off, Jacobs’ revealed that he was running late on the night and missed the exhibition, “I will surely go back to see it, Unfortunately not in the company of our glamour girls.”