The Met Gala Economy Glitters, but Is It Gold?

With billions of social media views, the Met Gala’s reach is global — and its glitter doesn’t just sparkle on celebrity guests, but also boosts designer and luxury brands, stylists, hotels and all sorts of businesses.

The extravaganza has morphed into a multiday celebration for fans and moneymakers alike. While guests gear up with trips to their facialists, stylists, makeup artists, dermatologists and personal trainers, the hotels, bars and restaurants that welcome them are upping their games, too. There are car services to be booked, Champagne bottles to be uncorked and $500 flower arrangements to be ordered for Met-bound out-of-towners. And the evening has become a key one for luxury brands, from fashion to fine jewelry to beauty.

Last year the Met Gala generated $995 million in just 48 hours in Media Impact Value over a total of 115,919 placements, according to Launchmetrics. The top five performing brands at last year’s gala, which honored Karl Lagerfeld, were Chanel ($110.7 million in MIV), followed by Fendi ($32 million), Valentino ($24 million), Gucci ($20 million) and Schiaparelli ($16 million).

A number of stars appeared on the gala’s red carpet in looks from Lagerfeld’s time at Chanel, Fendi and Chloé, personalized iterations of the designer’s own black-and-white wardrobe and kitschy tributes to Lagerfeld’s beloved cat Choupette. A vintage Chanel look worn and shared by Dua Lipa (one of last year’s hosts) on her Instagram account amassed $1.4 million in MIV alone. Chanel looks, designed by Lagerfeld, were seen on Nicole Kidman, Jennie Kim and Penélope Cruz, among others.

Dua Lipa at the 2023 Met Gala: Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023 in New York, New York.

Dua Lipa in Chanel and Tiffany & Co. jewelry. 

Lexie Moreland for WWD

This year’s Met Gala exhibition is called “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” and the official dress code is “The Garden of Time.” Fashion brands are naturally working overtime to dress celebrities for Monday night’s gala, knowing that there are a lot of benefits to having a star photographed in their dress, which they hope will generate an overall boost to image and sales, especially valuable in the midst of the current luxury slowdown.

Robert Burke, chairman and chief executive officer of Robert Burke Associates, the consultancy, said, “What we’ve seen coming out of COVID and award seasons in general coming back is a laser focus from the brands of using this [red carpet] as a platform to tell a story about a brand, their authenticity or their heritage.”

He said dressing celebrities for the Met Gala is a way to reach more people than they ever could through traditional media, whether it’s a magazine or an ad. “Everyone tunes in with their iPhone for the red carpet. It seems like brands really look at it as a return on their investment. They continue to make major investments. Part of this also came about because the actors were on strike for so long, so this was a major opportunity for them. It [celebrity dressing] is a revenue stream. It’s a business to get your clothing or jewelry on major celebrities,” he said.

As for whether the Met Gala red carpet is as important as the Oscars or the Grammys, Burke said, “I think the Met Gala is starting to eclipse it in many ways. The Oscars are known for movies, Cannes is also known for the movies, Grammys is music. This is really focused on fashion.

“The jewelry brands will have the jewelry that the celebrity wore right after the Met Gala in the windows and feature it. Or they’ll have the dress the celebrity wore in the window after the gala,” he said.

He also spoke about all the New York City activity in the lead-up to the gala. “We’ve seen it in the last few days, the amount of celebrities coming to the city. That certainly affects the hotels, it affects the retailers from a shopping standpoint, the restaurants are crazy busy. And I think in many ways it energizes New York, and New York is so much a part of the fashion ecosystem,” said Burke.

It appears that companies at all price levels want a piece of the action. “Everyone wants to get involved. The bigger houses have a lot of manpower. This year, because of the ‘Sleeping Beauties’ theme, I imagine you’ll see dresses inspired by the house’s couture or vintage, or you could see actual vintage. At the Oscars, Anya Taylor-Joy had that Dior dress, inspired by a famous 1949 dress. This means a lot to the consumer. One, it’s educational, but two, it separates these big heritage legacy brands from everyone else.”

But, he added, “Don’t underestimate the amount of accessories, and certainly fragrance and makeup, that these things can sell, from the Dior and Chanel and countless others.”

However over-the-top this year’s red carpeted bash might seem to armchair critics and social media fans, the benefit is essential for the Costume Institute as its annual fundraiser. To date, more than $223.5 million has been raised for the Costume Institute under the leadership of Anna Wintour, who has been a trustee since January 1999. Her term is slated to end in September. Twenty-five years ago, that May’s “Rock Style”-themed Met Gala was decidedly more dressed down, with Stella McCartney sporting a one-shoulder “Rock Royalty” T-shirt and pants and Whitney Houston in a bedazzled white coat and slim black pants.

Although New York City’s Economic Development Corp. has not measured the Met Gala’s economic impact on the city, the many days of frenzy around it generates significant business for some sectors, and does help to attract visitors to the Costume Institute in the months that follow. However, it’s likely to be less than that generated by the weeklong New York Fashion Week, held twice a year, which the EDC estimates contributes nearly $900 million annually to the city’s economy.

To be sure, the Met Gala helps spark tourism, not just in early May but in the months that follow, as well as museum visits, both of which are key to the city’s economy. In 2023, 62 million visitors came to the city and that figure is expected to be higher this year, according to a City Hall spokesperson. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been a part of the festivities before and may be again Monday, joining Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Wintour, the evening’s co-chairs. TikTok’s CEO Shou Chew and Jonathan Anderson, Loewe’s creative director, are the honorary chairs. In the case of Chew, the honor has sparked significant backlash and a potential political nightmare for Wintour given the looming U.S. ban on TikTok. A few of Wintour’s fellow museum trustees declined comment after being approached by WWD.

Mayor Eric Adams at the 2022 Met Gala.

Mayor Eric Adams at the 2022 Met Gala.

Lexie Moreland/WWD

The City Hall spokesperson said, “Thanks to our city’s world-renowned arts and culture, and events like the Met Gala, we are driving nearly $74 billion in economic activity into this city [as a result of the overall growth in tourism]. We look forward to welcoming back the Met Gala for another year in the greatest city in the world and seeing everyone in their finest looks.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).

Courtesy of Vacheron Constantin

As in years past, hundreds are expected to descend on the Upper East Side hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite VIPs. The New York Police Department will once again be on hand in the lead-up to and during Monday night’s event. Asked if there will be an increased police detail as a precaution for any protests, a NYPD spokesperson said, “The NYPD will have an adequate security deployment. There are no street closures.”

Upper East Side retailers, restaurants and businesses are keen to keep the traffic flowing. Matthew Bauer, executive director of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District, said that at a recent networking event for area store managers, “All of the stores were talking about the excitement that the Met Gala brings. How many times a year does the spotlight from virtually every media network focus specifically on fashion and in this Upper East Side neighborhood? Even if this spotlight doesn’t result in sales for that particular day, it aids all of the [300-plus] businesses that are here.”

Hotels in the neighborhood have been booked solid for the days leading up to the gala, and those right after, with designers using the event as a reason to come to Manhattan and do interviews, store appointments or dinners.

One beneficiary is the Mark Hotel, whose general manager Etienne Haro observed, “Increasingly, fashion houses and brands host events around Met Gala time, making it feel like a third fashion week, and positively impacting the length of stays.”

The Mark is fully booked, and with guests who are making their reservations further in advance, according to Haro. The early booking trend is also evident in its restaurants and bars.

Known to be a hub for celebrities and high-profile designers, The Mark has “a strong understanding of what is required for our guests to be safe and to feel safe during this major event. Like for all other facets, we always look for ways to improve our security setup and plan for any scenario,” he said.

The hotel doesn’t shy away from its A-list status by encouraging guests and non-overnighters to check out “The Mark Red Carpet live” via Instagram. The Mark is also known to be a base camp for major media outlets and fashion publications all day Monday, “making it the most watched [of the] hotel happenings in the world,” Haro boasted.

Like The Standard, the Lowell, the Carlyle and the Bowery Hotel, The Mark is at the ready for its VIPs, whether they want to hail “The Mark Pedicab” to wheel over to the Met, or need an all-day supply of “the best fried chicken in town,” Haro said. The inevitable wardrobe malfunctions can be eased with swift assistance. “The day is all about making the impossible happen. In hindsight, it is not so dissimilar to the daily life at The Mark,” he said.

Costume Institute Gala Benefit celebrating China: Through the Looking Glass, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, America - 04 May 2015

Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala celebrating “China: Through the Looking Glass.”

David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

The Lowell is also fully booked. Ernesto, director of sales and marketing, said, “We go above and beyond for all our guests. Most requests we can’t share, but we go as far as recreating ateliers for designers to work with their guests.” 

Cabin Creative’s founder Julia Flynn, who works with brands and celebrities, said, “Where I see companies having the largest advantages are in hospitality; no one discusses the incredible leaps and hurdles it takes to get into the actual hotels that host everyone; the Carlyle, Mark, Bowery Hotel and funny enough The Pierre. It’s increasingly becoming more challenging on the Upper East Side to find lodging for the celebrities, agents, managers, makeup artists, etc.”

Oscar Blandi, who brought his salon back to The Plaza seven months ago, said bookings are up 10 to 15 percent before the big event. With 150-plus clients Met-bound, many are requesting updos and more formal looks. Blandi speculated about the residual effect of the Met Gala in terms of driving tourism, fashion trends, hairstyles and color preferences: “When the news is good, clients have the inclination to stretch. But as soon as the news is bad, people get afraid. The type of clientele that we have ranges from young to older with everything in between. So you see how much the business grows, and then when something happens it drops. But then it goes back,” he said.

Florists are also seeing a bump in business, seemingly fitting considering this year’s dress code. Ovando, which has some celebrity orders, is seeing a 40 percent two-day boost. Owner Sandra de Ovando claimed, “When you receive flowers from Ovando, it’s an experience and experiences are more valuable than things. You feel taken care of, cherished and that you’re an important person. You feel loved — and happy.”

Zezé’s has seen orders pick up this week, with many ordering “very colorful” arrangements for out-of-town visitors, according to co-owner and manager Peggy O’Dea. People are spending more, $400 to $500 as opposed to the typical $250 to $300. The floristry is an art itself with floral designer, co-owner and husband Zezé, who still amazes O’Dea with some of his creations. “It’s just a natural thing with him. It’s not forced at all. It just flows,” O’Dea said. “He reads what people want to express on those messages on the cards and then he expresses that in the flowers. It’s quite a beautiful thing.”

To get ahead of the 100-plus demand for bouquets, Belle Fleur NYC delivered some orders Sunday, which is usually a day off, in advance of Monday’s blitz. With even more orders expected Tuesday and Wednesday, co-founder and creative director Meredith Waga Perez said, “It’s not just the celebs that are spoiled with the most exquisite flowers, but there’s also the post-gala thank you bouquets to grace the desks of designers, jewelers and editors.” 

Last year’s Belle Fleur NYC created a bouquet and a floral crown for Elle Fanning’s red-carpet appearance, which “trumped all orders and limited the quantity of deliveries,” Perez said. “Our gift bouquets align perfectly with this year’s Met Gala’s theme, embracing a secret garden aesthetic with imported blooms such as peonies, English garden roses, tulips, delicate sweet peas, button ranunculus and trailing scented jasmine vines,” she said.

Elle Fanning at last year's Met Gala.

Elle Fanning at last year’s Met Gala.

Courtesy of Belle Fleur.

Even candy is in demand. Accustomed to working regularly “within the high-fashion circuit for all fashion weeks and special events,” BonBon is providing candy for two designers’ entire offices and the celebrities they are working with or dressing, according to Sue-Jean Kang, senior events and marketing projects manager. (The candy store is also popular on TikTok with 42.1 million views.) ”We absolutely love Met Gala week. These brands are regular, longtime supporters,” she said.

Rosanna Scotto, whose family owns the restaurant Fresco by Scotto, estimated an uptick of 20 to 30 percent this week. “There are faces that we have not seen before in our restaurant, and ones we recognize. I think they are stylists and public relations people, based on their stylishness. They have a certain stye about them. They have taken things up a notch,” Scotto said. “You know that this is not your regular customer, although out regular customer is always stylish. The fashionistas are doing more of the fish [choices]. They’re not the pasta lovers.”

Last year Scotto, a “Good Day New York” host, tried unsuccessfully to crash the Met Gala with cameras in tow. The longtime New Yorker was a familiar face with many of the New York City police officers on duty. “They just thought it was hysterical. I schmoozed my way to where I couldn’t schmooze any more. I did not get to the top of the stairs,” she said. “I tried to pass myself off as an invited guest, but I was dressed like I was from the Amish country. Everybody was laughing around us, because they knew that I was up to shenanigans. The people at the Met Gala are very serious.”

Agreeing how the media goes into overdrive year after year over the celebrity attendees, Scotto said that she, like many, is very interested in Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos’ fiancee Lauren Sanchez. “I want to be a friend. I don’t care — I’ll find a corset. I’ll do something to hang out with that woman. And she was a correspondent for ‘Good Day LA.’”

But the night really is about fashion. And across the spectrum, brands have gotten involved in red carpet dressing, and have seen the benefits.

Tommy Hilfiger, for example, is dressing the eight-member K-pop band and Hilfiger ambassadors Stray Kids and actor Madelyn Cline, along with his wife, Dee. The Hilfiger looks will blend classic American cool with this year’s theme, while staying true to the brand’s signature red, white and blue color palette. The company said it views the Met Gala as an opportunity to showcase Hilfiger’s designs to a global audience of style enthusiasts, stars of pop culture and media outlets on one of fashion’s biggest stages.

Kerry O’Brien, founder, designer and CEO of Commando, the luxury intimate brand, has supplied intimates to stylists for every major award show, NYFW fashion show and red carpet moment, including the Met Gala. Although the intimate apparel is worn underneath and isn’t necessarily visible on the red carpet, she sees many benefits.

“We are honored to be the brand that stylists trust for the biggest night of the year in fashion,” said O’Brien. While she loves the media coverage, she said her goal has always been to support the stylist community and empower their clients to feel both comfortable and confident, no matter the occasion. “Many of those celebrities have become loyal customers over the years,” she said.

“More recently, we are finding ourselves on the red carpet not only as the perfect invisible underpinning, but our high-waisted briefs and thongs have been visibly worn by a number of A-list celebrities under sheer dresses. Our hosiery has also taken center stage paired with our high-rise bottoms (the ‘no pants’ trend),” said O’Brien. She said that celebrities wearing their product on the Met Gala red carpet “is obviously such a great endorsement of the brand.”

Claudia Cividino, president of Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, said, “Our Jared Atelier collection has been chosen by notable celebrities for a handful of red carpets this year. This has been a very positive affirmation for us and a signal to consumers that we are elevating the Jared brand and our product. The Met is clearly one of the pinnacle events of the year. It is one of the biggest stages for high jewelry, and a perfect venue for our offering to shine with exquisite one-of-a kind styles with natural diamonds, fancy yellow diamonds, emeralds and more. We find our customers may either want to purchase these looks or seek inspiration to create a similar look using our custom design service, The Foundry.”

Spanx, too, has benefited from the red carpet action.

“Spanx has been a mainstay on the red carpet for over two decades — since we’re the inventors of modern shapewear. When it comes to special events, like the Met Gala, it goes beyond product placement for us; it’s about fostering genuine connections and loyalty. Celebrities and stylists have come to rely on us for the big and small moments. Their brand love has helped maintain our leadership in the category by building consumer trust of our product,” said Andrea Port, vice president, brand and integrated marketing at Spanx.

Michael Fisher, a stylist represented by The Wall Group, feels events such as the Met Gala have really helped his career.

“I see it as an opportunity to push myself and grow as a creative. It has also been a career booster. In 2022 [‘Gilded Glamour’] my client Sebastian Stan went as a guest of Instagram, and we did something out of the box dressing him in Pierpaolo [Piccioli’s] Pink PP Valentino Collection while the rest of the guys were in crisp white tie. It was a padded bomber look and the first time a man wore total PP Valentino on a carpet. It caused quite a stir with so much engagement online,” he said.

“That traction certainly had an impact on my work and professional profile. Brands, stars and publicists took notice and it has become a ‘standard’ — one that has strengthened relationships and trust between brands and clients alike. They are more open to creative collaboration,” said Fisher.

— With contributions from Ryma Chikhoune

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top