In A Surprising Twist of Events, The Met Now Has Merch
There were many things that were different about the Met Gala this time around. It was a considerably smaller affair for starters, the gala was also held in the middle of September rather than the first Monday of May and the star-studded guest list was missing some obvious favourites. Is the Met Gala even the Met Gala without Zendaya making an appearance?
The exhibit that accompanied fashion’s biggest party has also been divided into two parts, rather than a singular show. The first half of the exhibition, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, will be open to the public starting this Saturday and part two, In America: An Anthology of Fashion is set to be on display on May 5, 2022. Yes, there will be another Met Gala to mark the occasion.
The subject of the exhibition is classic and contemporary Americana; exploring the impact of American fashion, celebrating national style icons and the designers that dressed them. The first part of the exhibit pays homage to young American brands- many of these designers are having their work displayed at a museum for the first time and will benefit from the name recognition that comes along with such an honour. Designers such as Christopher John Rogers, Prabhal Gurung, Thom Browne and Gabriella Hearst all have pieces in the exhibition.
Part two is more of a retrospective and is predicted to be the bigger exhibit, highlighting American design from the 18th century to the present in hopes of defining and examining a true American style.
Why Merch Matters
As it turns out even century-old art institutions believe in the power of merch. To be able to showcase and celebrate interests through signifiers such as t-shirts, hoodies, totes and even facemasks is universal and speak to how the art and culture we love and enjoy define us just as much as our personalities do. You are what you consume.
The Met recognizes the power of merch and has invited young designers to create exclusive pieces that will be available to purchase via the Museum’s Instagram shop. Over the weekend, Virgil Abloh and Eva Chen took to Instagram live to launch the very first collection of merch for the exhibit: the Off White x The Met Collection.
The drop included apparel and accessories all marked by signature Off White typography. There were only a few pieces in the drop and they stayed within Virgil’s typical design range: a pullover hoodie, a t-shirt, a baseball cap and a handbag with golden hardware to emphasise the signature Off White “X”. The pieces retailed upwards of $1400 and the bag which was by far the most expensive item sold out before the live stream even ended.
Christopher John Rogers, Collina Strada, Emily Bode of Bode, Aurora James of Brother Vellies and Pyer Moss are some of the other designers who have partnered with the Met to create capsule collections that will be released monthly up until the second part of the exhibit. Each capsule collection is expected to be launched in the same way through these Instagram shopping events, in an attempt to promote their live shopping feature.
The heavy use of Instagram isn’t a coincidence either as Instagram is the chief sponsor of this year’s exhibit. They pulled all the stops to make this event as digital as possible, the live shopping event was only the tip of the iceberg. Instagram created exclusive reels, bought out a whole table at the met (tickets cost around $30,000 for a plate) and hosted viewing parties for virtual critics in hotel rooms who were live-posting and tweeting about the hijinks that ensued at the Gala.
Eva Chen, head of partnerships at Instagram even took charge of the press conference prior to the exhibition and delivered a speech at the museum to the fashion elite who got to see the exhibition before anyone else.
As American as Apple Pie
A vocal minority are criticising the Met for leaning into the commercial side of art. The collaborations felt to them like a betrayal of everything the esteemed institution was built on, but on the flip side, this elaborate marketing scheme feels like the perfect match for an exhibit dedicated to Americana. The birthplace of modern marketing. The push on social media feels natural and the partnership with Instagram is a match made in heaven.
Eva Chen and the team behind the promotion of the Met Gala were especially careful in making sure their table was diverse and included guests who would have previously been ignored by fashion conglomerates. Most of their table was also wearing American designers which is a huge win for the night with attendees wearing Zac Posen, Christopher John Rogers, Christian Cowan and Thom Browne.
The viewing party gave fashion fanatics on Instagram such as Hanan Besovic and José Criales-Unzueta an opportunity to join in on the magic in full glam. Instagram’s involvement with the Met has only made it more inclusive. The live stream shopping events will allow fans of the museum to join in on the fun and interact with people working behind the scenes at the exhibit.
Most importantly, it brings the exhibit outside of New York. Fashion enthuasists from all over the globe, can support their favourite designers by purchasing the special edition merch and be prideful of the knowledge that those pieces are one of a kind.
We may love to hate the looks on the carpet but for once there is nothing negative to say about Instagram. The questionable app has finally done something right!