We weren’t sure how to feel about the Met Gala’s theme for next year, “Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film, and Fashion.” On the one hand, Chinese culture and dress is a great departure from the mostly Western-themed exhibits the Costume Institute has rolled out over the years. On the other, it could make for a really, um, culturally insensitive red carpet.
Today, WWD has more information about the show, which will run from May 7 through August 16 of next year. It is expected to feature looks from as far back as the 1700s to today, and will include decorative art as well as clothing. It will also highlight the mesh of China with the Western world and how Eastern art has influenced Western pieces and designers in a cultural exchange. Jean Paul Gaultier, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent and more are among the designers whose Chinese-inspired works will be on display.
Along with host Silas Chou, Jennifer Lawrence will serve as co-chair with Wendi Murdoch, Anna Wintour, Chinese actress Gong Li and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. Yahoo is also sponsoring the exhibition, which goes hand-in-hand with its push to establish itself in the fashion world, especially with the newly-launched style section helmed by Joe Zee.
But the question is, is “Chinese Whispers” a setup for a hotbed of cultural appropriation/questionable choices? Maybe so. According to Vogue, “‘Chinese Whispers’ will primarily examine how eastward-looking Westerners have understood, misunderstood, and appropriated Chinese culture…” Sounds a little suspicious, particularly because this celebration of Chinese culture seems to be told through a Western lens. We don’t have to go into how problematic that could be.
Hopefully, Katy Perry will have other commitments the night of the gala.