The annual May Met Gala brings together many bright stars in fashion for a highly curated annual affair at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City. The space for youth fandom (physically) at the Met Gala is swiftly becoming a big part of the spectacle on the steps leading into the iconic location. Last year, there was a lot of spice around fake seating charts, with a group of Gen Z icons (Amanda Gormon, Naomi Osaka, Timothy Chalamet and Billie Eilish) co-chairing the event. We’re watching this evolution in culture closely, with leaders in fashion shifting from established editors to young creators inspiring trends. This year was hotly anticipated post-COVID and was a full-on gilded affair with plenty of youth culture insights. For 52INSIGHTS this week, we’re sharing our hot takes from the Met Gala and what that means for brands.


i just think that there should be SOME kind of penalty instituted for being invited to the met gala yet completely missing the theme” Karen Han via Twitter

A large part of the discourse surrounding the event is always on how well attendees stick to or interpret the theme (or at all). This year it was all about Gilded Glamour, with guests encouraged to take their fashion notes from the Gilded Age (period of U.S. history right after the Civil War ended, and right before World War I began) which saw the rapid acceleration of industrialisation. The name of the era is one that points out the difference between an actually robust society, and one covering its flaws with the appearance of fortune. Fashion for the upper classes was all about excess and grandiosity, so fans and critics expected this to be the base level when gracing the stairs of the Met museum. Dissecting the looks and seeing who did their homework always makes noise after the event. One guest who got top grades for their sartorial choice was Billie Eilish, “she understood the assignment”. Riz Ahmed chose to spotlight the other side of the period, describing his less glitzy look as “an homage to the immigrant workers who kept the Gilded Age going.”

Someone who didn’t pass the public vote of confidence was Kylie Jenner, quickly falling trap to becoming a viral meme. It’s often a quick viral win to comment on how the theme could have been interpreted by flexing fashion history knowledge. Alternatively, it’s an easy way of shoehorning yourself into the conversation saying how you could have done it so much better. Those who did their research were applauded and those who didn’t still got people talking.


Amid rising inflation and insecurity around the world, some felt that the theme and occasion to be ignorant of the reality of life right now, with no consideration for the message the event was sending out to the people watching from their homes. Fashion critic Bryan Boy tweeted out “Gilded glamour at a time of war, let them eat cake”. At the same time as the event was happening, news in the US spread of the Supreme Court pushing to end the federal legalization of abortion. It brought with it an almost dystopian feel, echoing some of the realities of the original Gilded Age into 2022.

We live in such a simulated hell. This is the second apocalypse Met. Sad times.Mel Ottenberg via Interview Magazine

Not one to shy away from breaking the internet, Kim Kardashian has also been accused of not ‘reading the room’, stating with pride how many kilos she lost two weeks before the Met Gala to make sure she fitted into her dress. Her Gilded Glamour look was the original dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she famously sang Happy Birthday to then-US President John F Kennedy. The comparison of two women’s bodies have been an endless topic of heated conversation, while a few mentioned their contrasting politics should be the real focus of the debate. With many young women idolizing Kim K’s own style and body, the message she sends out to her fans about weight and image is not something to take lightly. “It was a brilliant idea, but it was always going to be goulish in its resurrection,” Emma Davidson via Dazed. The dangers of glamourising drastic weight loss could be considered a trigger for many, with eating disorders rates increasing since the pandemic.


“Yes, there was the glamour of the red carpet, the mystery of the exhibition and guest list. However, in a bid to engage Gen Z and TikTok audiences, there were rough and ready live Instagram feeds, get-ready-with-me celebrity content - and while the dinner inside the gala was no doubt five-star, it was the pizza (from Joe’s of West Village fame) and donuts in the lobby that featured on celebrity’s Insta feed.” Jo Linehan, Writer, Futurist Podcast Host & 52INSIGHTS Contributor

With this almost changing of the guards in the fashion and culture worlds, the event itself has started to embrace the more authentic side of internet and youth culture. As guests arrive, young people are as interested in what attendees say or how they behave, as well as what they are wearing. Emma Chamberlain was interviewing stars on the way for Vogue and brought her personality and relevance to a younger cohort. Her not-so-glam but endearing reaction to Jack Harlow saying “Love you, bye” and her responding, “Love ya!”, was another viral sensation of the night because it highlighted xxx. Off the red carpet, the raw moments are the ones that get people talking, like the famous elevator moment between Solange, Beyonce and Jay Z. Plus there is always anticipation and buzz around any forbidden ‘leaked’ selfies (guests are asked to not bring in mobile phones), sharing a less polished and more real view into the star studded event.


A lot of people were not in attendance at the Met Gala this year for a host of different reasons, driving conversation around not being on the Met Museum steps. There is always a buzz around what Zendaya will wear at the event, known for being someone who always does her research while wearing something culturally relevant while sticking to the theme. She was missing from the event this year, stating that she was prioritizing work; Your girl's gotta work and make some movies.” For some people, the choice to not attend is political. Last year, activist and actress Indya Moore said on their Instagram it would be their first and last time attending the Met Gala. “I had to really think about if it is truly in alignment with what I care about because I think it is possible to be an artist and a creative and simultaneously not invest in make-believe during a time make believe is weaponized against the truth, during a time where honesty and transparency is more important than ever.” Their statement showed the power of choosing not to participate and sticking to your values.

The guestlist is tight; not everyone gets to go because they’re simply not invited. Rather than feel sorry for herself, actress Ashley Tisdale tweeted out some of her past red carpet outfits as the kind of outfit she would wear if invited. The nostalgic aesthetic tapped into the Y2K obsession of Gen Z while poking fun at herself, becoming a winner on the internet. In reaction to the exclusivity (and occasionally problematic) event, a group of fashion creatives on Twitter gathered together to create the High Fashion Met Gala, with the aim of democratizing fashion’s most exclusive event and inviting everyone to attend their annual online companion event to the much celebrated Met Gala.


Understand the assignment - If you’re showing up at a festival or other themed commonal event, do your homework and go deep on nuance. In an internet age, fans appreciate efforts that demonstrate you understand the layered nuances of history (past and present) and are committed to showing up authentically.

Read the room - By showing up in a way that is totally disconnected to the challenges and struggles of everyday living, brands can lose trust or credibility. Of course brands can show up through the lens of ‘escapism’, inviting fans to escape the mundane of their reality, but there is a fine line between fun and frivolous escapism and ignorance. For brands, it’s about figuring out where they draw their line and staying true to values. There’s danger in co-opting a moment to divert attention away from something ‘popular’ to something your brand deems more important. Consider the power of not showing up at certain times, avoiding drawing attention to your brand especially when there are important political or socio-economic issues front of mind.

The right moment to test - Jo Linehan describes the impact of utilizing and evolving Instagram Live stream, with ‘TV-like ads at the intervals of Vogue’s live Instagram stream of the red carpet. Genius, as the event isn’t televised and everyone is glued to the live coverage on their Insta feeds. Is this the beginning of high-stakes events generating revenue and brand partnerships via live streams on Instagram?’ Taking consideration to how people consume content and locking in at the right moment can be a brand win. Identifying those moments for experimentation can unlock big opportunities to reach new people and win engagement.