The Met Gala Must Go On

The first Monday in May: the annual Met Gala. Fashion lovers, celebrities with enough status to get an invite and all types of fashion royalty wait for the day when they can show off their designer gowns and eat dinner with their peers. The event has always been an invite-only affair, leaving us normal people to critique the best and worst outfits at home and dream of what we would wear if we were invited.

This year was different. The COVID-19 pandemic took things for an unexpected turn and Gala organizers watched closely as concerts, events and gatherings were postponed. Ultimately, American Vogue editor-in-chief and Gala chairperson Anna Wintour decided to postpone the event indefinitely, offering an online livestream option that offers a look into the exhibit. Fashion fans everywhere sulked about missing the joyous time that only comes once a year. There was an alternative though: The High Fashion Twitter Met Gala created by a different group of fashion lovers.

A team of 11 young women ranging in age and from several different countries curated a Met Gala experience that anyone could enjoy from the comfort of their homes. They come from an online community called High Fashion Twitter — a place where fashion fans can talk about the latest looks, dish about their favorite designers, and share inspiration and opportunities with each other. Ranging in ages and occupations, the community shares a love for designing, creating, and (eventually) working in fashion. The High Fashion Twitter Met Gala (stylized hftmg by its organizers) was born out of the desire for a more inclusive Met Gala where everyone could showcase their talents and eye for fashion. Participants could choose from five different categories involving styling, a brand challenge for specific brands, photoset moodboard creations, illustration expressions and an open creativity option where participants could play with style, different garments and moodboards.

“We started the hftmg in November as an online companion event to [the] Met Gala. We wanted to find a way to participate in an event that we, as fashion enthusiasts, love so much. Our intention was to democratize the event and make it inclusive so that everyone could participate,” said organizer Senam Attipoe, a 20-year-old med student from Maryland. The creators wanted a Met Gala built around inclusion so everyone could show their creativity.

“I think the most important opportunities are inclusion — anyone with internet access can participate, whereas the official Met Gala is very exclusive — and the opportunity for participants to be noticed by the industry. I’m not sure how far this will go but I’m hoping that people will be offered internships or something based on their work shown on [Met Gala] Monday.”

Participants were eager to share their ideas and original designs for the event. Some drew looks from archived fashion shows, some made intricate outfits from their own closet, and some researched brands to find the perfect on-theme look. Participant Elle Hawkins decided to do the Wardrobe and Illustration categories. “I started to think and mentally place myself there as if I was really attending the Gala — that’s where most of my inspiration for my look came from,” Hawkins said. “I wanted my look to appear authentic in a way. I searched for pictures and images and even incorporated music to really get in the zone and think of my design.”  Hawkins’s design drew upon the glamour of the 1920s and 1960s. She was inspired by film noir as it played on this year’s theme, “About Time: Fashion and Duration.” “This was a wonderful opportunity and I can’t wait to see next year’s theme!”

Elle Hawkins’ submission for the hftmg channeling 1920s and 1960s styles. Courtesy of Elle Hawkins.

Thousands of Twitter users tuned in for the event, submitting looks with their individual flair and style. There was a strict zero-judgment rule understood throughout the community which prevented people from being discouraged from participating. This was truly a time for fashion fans to express themselves and participate in one of the most fun nights of the year.

The creators’ efforts didn’t stop there. Leading up to the event, organizers worked to make the event true to its origins: the Met Gala raises money for charitable organizations, and the hftmg would, too. “We’re not ignoring the pandemic. We’re aware of its effects and that’s why we’re planning a fundraiser,” said Attipoe just days before the event was happening. Participants who donated $5 to the International Medical Corps and sent proof to any of the organizers receive a book of highlights curated by the hftmg staff. The creators wanted an event that could take everyone’s mind off the pandemic while still supporting coronavirus efforts.

The creators and participants hope the event continues into next year. “We had so much fun this year, we are definitely  planning on hosting and coordinating another hftmg!” said Attipoe,  already planning new ideas for the online community.

The high fashion Twitter event showed the fashion community that inclusion and creativity can create beautiful results. Even though we are forced inside, we can still enjoy the things we did in new and different ways.

Header image by Lauryn Balark, 14 East