The Met’s next massive fashion show is dedicated to Karl Lagerfeld

For only the third time, the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute will mount an exhibition dedicated to a single designer: Karl Lagerfeld. The late prolific German designer, that New York Times reportsfollows Alexander McQueen and Comme Des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubowho each received blockbuster shows — and saw their work interpreted on the red carpet at the Met Gala, which celebrates the annual exhibition.

Lagerfeld’s own feelings about retrospectives of his work are well known: “I’m sure he would hate it,” said Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, which is responsible for the exhibition. Times. “He would probably still refuse to come,” Bolton added, referring to Lagerfeld’s no-show at his own Chanel retrospective held at the Met in 2005.

Before his passing in 2019, Lagerfeld oversaw a handful of collections and fashion shows for Chanel, Fendi and his own namesake. Add in what he designed in the early stages of his career at Chloé, Balmain and Patou, and there’s a massive archive of Lagerfeld’s work to sift through. While the exhibit will only show about 150 of Lagerfeld’s designs, Bolton said he started with somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 pieces. This is good news for museum-goers and Met Gala attendees, who will have a buffet of options to choose from.

Specifically, the exhibition will focus on the relationship between the designer’s sketches and the garments they eventually became. “[The sketches] can appear very charming and expressionistic to the untrained eye, but they were almost mathematical in their precision, almost like a secret language between Karl and the studios,” said Bolton. Featured pieces will be accompanied by video interviews from the heads of the ateliers Lagerfeld worked with (Chanel alone boasts 26 houses).

A rocket ship explodes at Chanel’s fall 2017 show

Peter White/Getty Images

The exhibition will offer all kinds of wink-wink, elbow-nudges and Lagerfeld geekery for the knowledgeable fanatic. Bolton is dividing the exhibition into 10 sections as a nod to the designer’s 10th birthday, and each of these will contain seven pieces because that was Lagerfeld’s lucky number. These sections will then be organized into a straight line—representing “Lagerfeld’s more modernist, classical work”—and a “snake” line, representing his “historicist and romantic designs,” according to Times. The reason? “In Roman mythology, the straight line intertwined by an S line is the symbol of Mercury, the god of commerce and communication,” Bolton said. “And probably the modern god of commerce and communication was Charles.” There may also be a drone buzzing over the attendees’ heads because Bolton believes Lagerfeld would have been reincarnated as a drone.

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