Mel Ottenberg and an Anonymous Fashion Luminary Fall Into a Met Gala Scroll Hole
This Monday, the Met Gala made its highly anticipated return, with the stars making up for lost time in full fashion regalia. Interview’s new editor in chief, Mel Ottenberg, was hovering around, tending to the looks of a few choice celebrities. “When I’m dead,” he said recently about the Met Gala in The New York Times, “they’ll remember all the things I styled.” Ottenberg has masterminded some of the Gala’s most legendary fashion moments: from the 40-foot long, canary yellow Guo Pei cape that he styled Rihanna in for 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass”-themed gala, to the pearl and crystal encrusted papal getup he concocted with Maison Margiela for the Gala’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” theme in 2018, Ottenberg’s zeitgeist-driving looks aim to go hard. This year, he decked our September guest editor Jeremy O. Harris out in a larger-than-life Tommy Hilfiger coat inspired by the pair’s favorite iconic Aaliyah/Tommy moment, and pulled out the quintessential minimalist leather-boy-meets-’90s-Gwyneth look for Troye Sivan’s Gala debut. The morning after, our EIC was out prowling the streets for iced coffee when he ran into his friend, whom we’ll refer to as Anonymous Fashion Luminary, and the two fell into a Met Gala scroll hole that all of us can relate to. Below, the pair dish on the night’s looks.
OTTENBERG: Ok reader, so my phone is fucked up, I’m on the street, and I’m spiraling a little bit, but I ran into an Anonymous Fashion Luminary at the corner of Hudson and Charlton, and we’re going to talk “American Lexicon” for a minute. Anonymous Fashion Luminary, you went to the preview of “American Lexicon” and saw the show, right?
ANONYMOUS: Right. We love American fashion.
OTTENBERG: So, they’ve assigned a vocabulary word to each piece of clothing in the show.
ANONYMOUS: Yeah. So, like, “comfort,” or “athletics,” or “joy,” or “repurposing.”
OTTENBERG: Ok. We’re focused on the positives here, people. We’re not here to diss. We’re just scrolling through the looks. Ok, I hate that outfit. I don’t understand why anyone cares about that.
ANONYMOUS: Horrible. Gross. It feels gimmicky. I don’t think outside props should be allowed.
OTTENBERG: Ok, this one is good. Kim Kardashian, you ate it. Let me tell you something, people. We are in the apocalypse. There’s a worldwide pandemic. Earth is on fire. The world as we knew it is kind of over. And somehow, the Met Gala is still happening. So, this is how you eat the red carpet in the middle of the apocalypse, I feel. Fuck you, Kim Kardashian. You fucking killed it. Bravo. We’re staring, we’re zooming in. People love it, people hate it. This is how you fucking do it. Ok, now let’s talk about Kanye, because he looks—
ANONYMOUS: That’s not Kanye. It’s Demna [Gvasalia, creative director at Balenciaga]
OTTENBERG: That’s Demna! Damn Demna, you look good too. Is it still recording?
ANONYMOUS: It’s still recording.
OTTENBERG: Another reason why I’m so excited about Kim: this is such an interesting take on what her, let’s say, “augmented” visuals have done to the culture. Like it or not. By creating this blank slate, this look really speaks to the power of her silhouette and fame.
ANONYMOUS: She has so much influence over what the ideal body looks like now. It’s such a good idea. Next up.
OTTENBERG: Alright, Isabelle Huppert.
ANONYMOUS: Isabelle Huppert looks good.
OTTENBERG: Demna ate the American lexicon for fucking dinner with this outfit. When I first saw this on the runway a while back, I was so excited— because of the reference. It’s so interesting to see a European designer of this caliber take on one of the great looks in the American lexicon—
ANONYMOUS: —In such a good way. I am amazed that neither Isabelle’s dress nor Kim’s dress are couture, and they’re carrying more than any of the other custom designs on the red carpet. So, applause, first of all. Second, I begged for this dress last week for… a person that I was working with, and the answer was NO. I was like, “Who is the right person to wear this dress at the Met?”
OTTENBERG: It’s Isabelle motherfucking Huppert. Duh. Here’s a little context, readers. The reason that Anonymous Fashion Luminary and I are so ecstatic about Isabelle Huppert’s Met Gala Balenciaga gown is because it’s what Divine wears as Babs Johnson in her iconic final scene in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos.
ANONYMOUS: One of the greatest works of queer cinema ever made.
OTTENBERG:…Drag, fringe, and punk fucking rock, motherfucker. Right?
ANONYMOUS: That’s right. I mean, it’s THE dress.
OTTENBERG: It’s the dress.
ANONYMOUS: It’s the dress.
OTTENBERG: Nothing else made me this excited. Divine’s Pink Flamingos dress was designed by Van Smith, who designed Divine’s incredibly influential drag looks, and also all of the looks in John Waters’ early movies I think, which are my favorite movies ever. Fuck, it’s just so badass. And you know what? I also like that they’re not trying to explain this backstory to anybody.
ANONYMOUS: Not everyone needs to get it.
OTTENBERG: I bet you a million bloggers are out there are like, “What does this have to do with American fashion?” Well, we just fucking told you. It’s inspired by of the most iconic dresses in American film history.
ANONYMOUS: Everything that Demna brought to the red carpet was so “fuck you,” while staying on theme. I’m on board for it. Next.
OTTENBERG: Ok, this one. Who cares? Horrible.
ANONYMOUS: Hate that.
OTTENBERG: We want to like it, but neither of us likes it. But everyone else likes it. Next.
ANONYMOUS: Hunter Schafer.
OTTENBERG: We love. Prada, hot. Next. Anna Wintour, we both think you look fucking great.
ANONYMOUS: You look amazing.
OTTENBERG: I love the peep toe shoe, which I usually don’t love. And the dress is really good. Is it Oscar de la Renta?
ANONYMOUS: I love the sleeve. It is Oscar, yeah.
OTTENBERG: She’s giving American ‘70s royalty. She’s giving blue blood. She’s giving Anderson’s mom [Gloria Vanderbilt] with the kids. She’s got those porcelain lettuce plates. You know what I’m talking about?
ANONYMOUS: Love it. Next.
OTTENBERG: Okay, we love Grimes. Grimes is a lexicon. This outfit is Lexicon: Grimes. (ed note: Grimes is Canadian, so she’s technically not part of the American Lexicon, but we live.)
ANONYMOUS: The hair spiral is amazing. The mask is perfect.
OTTENBERG: Oh, Grimes, you’re just great.
ANONYMOUS: She has a light up book. Book One, she called it. I know I just said outside props shouldn’t be allowed, but this is an emergency.
OTTENBERG: I was standing in the doorway of the Mark Hotel, trying to get Troye out the door— or maybe it was at the Carlyle Hotel, trying to get Jeremy out the door—and Grimes STOMPED BY me with book and sword and mask. It was so extreme 2021 and I loved it. Okay. Next up: Troye Sivan styled by me. I’m with it. Anonymous Fashion Luminary, what do you think I’m hitting on here?
ANONYMOUS: There’s athleticism in it first, and there’s fluidity— menswear done fluidly. There’s also leather daddy action going on, which is good.
OTTENBERG: Gay leather.
ANONYMOUS: There’s gay, there’s fetish, there’s high jewelry.
OTTENBERG: Thank you, Cartier.
ANONYMOUS: He looks so good.
OTTENBERG: This one was fun. I was thinking about Rudi Gernreich. I was thinking about ease, and the power of minimalism in American fashion. I adore Troye. At first, I was like, “You should be wearing a Hanes tank top and Levi’s with a Cartier necklace.” But we’d already done a lot of jeans together. I was also saying, “You should be wearing a Rudi Gernreich black dress with a Cartier necklace.” And then those ideas kind of merged into one vibe.
ANONYMOUS: Let’s talk about that. The last Met Gala was the camp one two years ago.
OTTENBERG: Which was a rough place for culture to leave off, because now people think it’s supposed to be this—
ANONYMOUS: —Extravagant, crazy parade. I think the understanding of what one is supposed to wear to The Met is kind of lost. As the guests get younger, they seem more and more to understand the assignment as “do the most at all times.” So, I think that this is an amazing example of what you just mentioned: Gernreich and minimalism. It’s good to remind people that sometimes, a good dress goes a long way. Just one simple statement can be just as impactful as the longest train on the carpet, or the most embellished headpiece.
OTTENBERG: That’s I wanted to get across. I’m thrilled that we got a bit of The Leather Man on the carpet. Also, Joseph Altuzarra is working on this new brand called Altu. I really love this dress, and I was excited that he showed it to me before anyone else saw it. I was telling Joseph about this boy I called Skirtboy in 1995, who was a year younger than me at RISD. He was super butch and tough and wore combat boots and a long black stretch skirt to school every day. He was just so hot. I wonder where he is. His name was Adam. Adam, if you see this, I was so in love with you. Anyway, Skirtboy was so sexy and butch and hot, and I wanted Troye’s look to kind of honor his memory.
ANONYMOUS: It’s really good.
OTTENBERG: Anyway, Next. I don’t know who that is. I don’t care.
ANONYMOUS: That’s bad.
OTTENBERG: Wait, let me see what she’s wearing. Oh, come on.
OTTENBERG: Let’s give some love to J Lo.
ANONYMOUS: I mean, J Lo has been nonstop everywhere this summer, with the return of Bennifer and all that. This look tops it all off…she’s kind of become, like, a Real Housewife of her own creation.
ANONYMOUS: And it’s major Texas, Western…
OTTENBERG: At first, I wasn’t loving. But you sold me on it. That’s why you’re A Fashion Luminary. It’s unique. Nobody else looks like that. It’s perfectly done on her body. It’s giving American Lexicon: West World Avatar. You know what? She’s one in a million, baby. Again, a kind of major way to dress for the Met Gala during the apocalypse. They may hate, but we love.
ANONYMOUS: The shoe is kind of a random choice, but perfect.
OTTENBERG: Okay, We can’t talk about this next one, for obvious reasons.
OTTENBERG: Okay, we’ve got to talk about Jeremy O. Harris.
ANONYMOUS: Look at Jeremy smoking on the red carpet. The long nail.
OTTENBERG: Yeah, so here is Jeremy O. Harris, the other person I styled. He is wearing a Tommy Hilfiger custom coat, shirt, and pants with a Chrome Hearts ring, and Manolo Blahnik shoes. To me, this one is in the American lexicon of Aaliyah, and of hip-hop’s huge influence on fashion. Aaliyah means so much, and her style was so perfect. It was Jeremy’s idea to take the Tommy moment that he was most excited by, and do something really elegant with it. I’ve got to say, I love this coat. I love Chrome Hearts. That’s a really good ring.
ANONYMOUS: Great. Okay. Moving on to …this.
OTTENBERG: What IS that?
ANONYMOUS: Let’s scroll on.
OTTENBERG: Ok, thoughts?
OTTENBERG: Whatever. No.
ANONYMOUS: Not mad at that either.
OTTENBERG: I mean, they got the assignment. Not mad, but we can’t only talk about Balenciaga.
ANONYMOUS: I guess Balenciaga was the best.
OTTENBERG: Word. We don’t need to talk about that one, but it’s cool.
ANONYMOUS: It’s great, yeah.
ANONYMOUS: That’s so crazy. No.
OTTENBERG: Well, looks good, but absolutely not.
ANONYMOUS: We’re in a dip. We’re dipping.
OTTENBERG: What the hell is that? Go back.
ANONYMOUS: No going back. I like this. Kaia Gerber in Oscar de la Renta.
OTTENBERG: It’s beautiful.
ANONYMOUS: I love the glam. She was inspired by what Bianca Jagger wore to the Met Gala in 1981. I think Kaia looks extraordinarily good. Did Pat do her makeup? Because I saw Pat in the elevator at The Carlyle.
ANONYMOUS: I’m just like, Guido did her hair for the Met Gala. Shut it down. That’s so good.
OTTENBERG: Kaia Gerber. She’s just so A+. I actually don’t think she’s ever looked better.
ANONYMOUS: What we’re saying overall is that we think that Oscar and Balenciaga really brought it last night.
OTTENBERG: They brought it the most. I’ve got to say, Kaia doesn’t seem like the type who wants to wear a dress like this. But she’s owning how beautiful she looks in it, and the décolletage is beautiful. It’s also speaking to another American lexicon of uptown, high society elegance in a way that is not a costume.
ANONYMOUS: She gets it.
ANONYMOUS: Ok, absolutely not.
OTTENBERG: Abso-fucking-lutely not. I mean, we’re not talking about it, but it’s kind of major.
ANONYMOUS: Okay, but we can talk about this one though, because somebody had to do this. Somebody had to give us flag.
OTTENBERG: Debbie Harry wearing Zac Posen, with Zac Posen. I’m not mad.
ANONYMOUS: As The New York Times says, “Wearing a huge, tattered American flag skirt.”
OTTENBERG: It’s interesting, because I love America, and I do love the flag I guess, even though I despise what Republicans, and Trump people, and all those motherfuckers have done to diminish what it represents these days. When you look at a Bald Eagle now, you can only think of these fucking terrifying, “Stop the Steal,” January 6th fuck head maniacs. But Debbie Harry, I have to go on the record to say, I can’t even deal with you. You’re too fucking major. I’m down to see her in this. Zac is not always my thing, but he is an incredibly talented American designer. I’ve worked with him before, and I’m very impressed with his talent. Also, this is a very good what-to-wear-to-an-apocalypse-Met-Gala look.
ANONYMOUS: He does this well. When was the last time she was at the Met Gala? I don’t know.
OTTENBERG: I don’t know. There’s denim in there too, which we didn’t see a lot of on the carpet. I thought everyone should be wearing denim.
ANONYMOUS: I guess I need to take this call. And anyway, that’s it. That’s the end of the slideshow.
OTTENBERG: Thank you, Anonymous Fashion Luminary. This has been fun.