Fashion

How the Met Gala Beauty Looks Referenced Karl Lagerfeld


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Photography by Getty Images

Here’s how smokey eyes, pearl accents and bridal beauty were nods to Karl Lagerfeld.

By Lauren Knowles

Date May 4, 2023

While Met Gala themes can most easily be translated and identified through dress, beauty serves as another avenue for further creative expression. With some blatantly obvious tributes and some more subtle, the hair and makeup looks worn by this year’s Met Gala attendees reflected the “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” theme beautifully.

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Having left behind a legacy that’s both controversial and celebrated, there were endless possible references to be made at an event centred around the memory of Karl Lagerfeld’s impressive career. Though this designer was best known for fashion, his creative process was also closely intertwined with beauty, giving way to some of the “Karl-isms” we spotted on the glam scene at this year’s Met Gala.

From smokey eyes to bridal beauty and, of course, nods to Lagerfeld’s beloved cat Choupette, we break down how the 2023 Met Gala beauty trends that honoured the late Karl Lagerfeld and nailed the theme.

The significance of the smokey eye

When Met Gala attendees including Emily Ratajkowski, Keke Palmer, Kim Kardashian, and longtime Lagerfeld muse Cara Delevingne stepped out onto the Met carpet with slept-in smokey eyeshadow, we began to sense a trend. While this sultry eye look is a certified classic, it has deeper ties with Lagerfeld and his relationship to makeup. As a multi-hyphenate dabbling in photography, illustration and design, Lagerfeld’s artistic abilities stretched far beyond strictly clothing. Among various other mediums used to communicate texture in his drawings, Lagerfeld is known to have used eyeshadow.

In addition to using shadows for the sketches themselves, he always had a vision of how each model’s makeup would tie into his designs. “Karl was building a story with every collection, and there was no [disconnect’ between the makeup and the clothes,” shared Caroline Lebar, SVP of image and communications at Karl Lagerfeld, in a Vogue interview. “He had a vision of how she dressed. How she did her makeup. How she did her hair.” With this attention to detail, the creation of several makeup collections developed with big beauty players like Sephora and L’Oréal seemed to be a fitting extension of Lagerfeld’s creativity. Eyeshadow palettes packed with midnight blacks, sultry silvers and blendable browns proved to be the common thread throughout his makeup collections, mirroring Lagerfeld’s iconic monochrome look and the signature Chanel smokey eye — a recurring look that appeared on the runways of some of Lagerfeld’s most praised shows from the ’90s to the end of his career.

Fanciful felines

From Doja Cat’s sharpened claws and prosthetic snout to more subtle feline eyeliner flicks worn by stars like J.Lo and Vanessa Hudgens, one could argue that this year’s Met Gala beauty looks honoured Karl Lagerfeld’s blue-eyed Birman cat as much as the late designer himself. She’s a cover girl. She’s an Instagram icon. She’s essentially the heir to the Lagerfeld throne (and is reportedly set to inherit some of his millions). She is Choupette! As Lagerfeld’s feline companion and perhaps most prized possession, homages to Choupette and cat-inspired beauty looks were to be expected at this year’s Met Gala — and they did not disappoint.

After cat-sitting Choupette (whose name translates to “cute girl” in French) for French model and muse Baptiste Giabiconi in 2011, Lagerfeld was so fond of the cat and their time together that he decided to keep her. “There is no marriage, yet, for human beings and animals… I never thought I would fall in love like this with a cat,” he told CNN in 2013. In the years since, this fluffy feline has become as synonymous with Lagerfeld as his signature white ponytail and black sunglasses. When Choupette revealed on Instagram that she would not be walking the Met carpet — despite her eagerly anticipated attendance — we had to rely on celebrities and the power of makeup to channel her feline energy. And they sure did.

Pearls, pearls, pearls!

Channeling Lagerfeld’s Chanel era, we observed pearls galore draped over gowns and hanging from the necks of Met Gala guests — and upon close inspection, pearl details were also worked into some of the best beauty looks of the night. Alton Mason (who was the first Black male model to walk in a Chanel show) accessorized his look with a single pearl at the inner corner of each eye, Gigi Hadid opted for an undereye placement of her micro pearls, and Lil Nas X was bedecked in pearls from head to toe, all nodding to the house of Chanel where pearls remain one of the brand’s most notable symbols. Coco Chanel famously stated that “A woman should have ropes and ropes of pearls,” a mantra which Lagerfeld continued to follow when he began working at the French fashion house in the 1980s. Layered pearls were featured in Lagerfeld’s debut collection at Chanel in 1983, and this precious gemstone continued to appear throughout his collections until his final show in 2019.

The black bow

We may view hair bows as a coquettet beauty accessory now, but the black bow will forever be associated with Chanel. Like pearls, the bow was an accessory favoured by Coco Chanel that Lagerfeld continued to incorporate into his looks long after her death and right up until his own. Under Lagerfeld’s rule, the black bow was used on Chanel runways in a multitude of imaginative ways: classically tying a model’s hair back in the Fall 1986 show, as a headband during the Spring 1990 show, miniature and everywhere at the Autumn 2005 show, and as a bridal accessory on muse Cara Delevingne for the Métiers d’Art show in 2014. On the Met Gala red carpet, our FASHION’s Winter 2022 cover star Sydney Sweeney went big and bold with her black bow, while Karlie Kloss, Camilla Morrone and Billie Eilish also took on the black bow trend.

Bridal beauty

In true couture tradition, Lagerfeld was known to close his haute couture shows with a bridal look, many of which became his most beloved and best-known creations. From ’90s brides Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista and Devon Aoki to modern muse brides like Lily-Rose Depp and Kendall Jenner, Lagerfeld’s nuptial looks pushed the envelope with designs that surpassed traditional notions of wedding attire. In his honour, bridal beauty was abundant on the stairs of The Met. Met Gala co-chair Penélope Cruz accessorized her hair with a dreamy bridal veil (which was part of a hooded gown plucked from the archives of Chanel’s 1998 Spring collection), Ava Max adorned a pearl-encrusted headpiece to complete her bridal look, and Alton Mason topped off his “groom” getup with a rhinestone encrusted veil overtop his cornrows.

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