Will The Met Gala’s Patriotic Theme Push China Away?

Key Takeaways:

  • Many attendees will decide to skip the Met Gala because of COVID fears, vaccine etiquette, and travel restrictions.

  • Americanism is unfashionable with the global audience.

  • Designers, brands, and luxury conglomerates that highly depend on the Chinese market might understand that the association with the American identity can impact their bottom line.

In 2020, the Met Gala became another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it was decided that the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Vogue-organized event should be scaled back this year and postponed to September 13. And while we expect some celebrities to take part in the annual soirée, many guests will probably choose to skip the social event because of COVID-19 fears.

Aside from the vaccine etiquette and the indoor mask mandate, international guests and designers would also have to overcome travel restrictions; thus, many attendees will probably choose to skip the event. Moreover, many A-listers might have been turned off by Anna Wintour’s recent embrace of the influencer culture.

According to Highsnobiety, fame-hungry TikTokers and unrelatable social media celebrities could be in attendance. The digital publication points to a fake Met Gala seating chart posted by the Instagram account @_metgala2021 (unaffiliated with the actual Metropolitan Museum of Art), which has created quite a stir. Several social media users had unfavorable views that @_metgala2021 mentioned Addison Rae, Charli D’Amelio, James Charles, and Emma Chamberlain as guests.

Sure enough, the gala’s selection of Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, which is also sponsoring the event, as one of this year’s Met Gala honorary chairs might help push social media influencers to the forefront. But this new direction could cause real damage to the Met Gala brand. Instead of a synonym for prestige and exclusivity, this choice will turn the Met Gala into just another influencer soirée.

Additionally, with the theme of the party being “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” — an embrace of the American identity — Anna Wintour might have misread the pulse of the global market. The painful reality is that Americanism is currently unfashionable with global audiences.

On the one hand, the European public hasn’t forgotten Trump’s anti-EU rhetoric and the ease with which half of the country turned toward authoritarian conservatism. Meanwhile, on the other hand, the escalation of an anti-Asian movement and the rise in COVID-19 “hate crimes” in the US made Asians turn against America.

Chinese citizens, particularly, have become apathetic toward the US and hostile to American values. As such, an event that “celebrates all things American fashion” isn’t the best way to conquer their hearts.

Meanwhile, designers, brands, and luxury conglomerates that highly depend on the Chinese market might understand that an association with American identity could impact their bottom line; hence, they might decide to skip this year’s gala or downplay attendance.

Some hardcore Chinese fashion lovers will surely follow the event online, but the absence of Chinese celebrities and designers will make them see the gala as even more pointless. While Rihanna’s red carpet dress from 2015, which catapulted Chinese couturier Guo Pei to global fame, became an instant meme in China, this year’s star-spangled outfits will likely be ignored or ridiculed on WeChat.

Rihanna’s outfit to the 2015 Met Gala was a 55-pound dress with a 16-foot train designed by Chinese couturier Guo Pei. Photo: Shutterstock

All in all, in a world where “young Chinese consumers are reshaping global luxury,” this Met Gala theme seems ill-fated. The implications are too obvious to ignore, and we expect this event will only exacerbate the division between American designers and Chinese shoppers.