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The Garden of time: A met Galla’s take on culture and time

A palatial villa maintains the vestiges of cultured society while a distant “immense rabble”  threatens to dismantle it all. More than a dystopian plot, the story of “The Garden of Time”  by James Ballard has now become the theme for the latest Met gala, which invites us to  roam around a magical garden while reflecting on the fragility of objects with time. 

But the short story by the British satirist keeps a close resemblance with the history of the  Met Gala. While in Ballard’s tale, Count Axel and the nameless Countess preserve rare  books, fine art, classical music, and a sumptuous garden, the lavish annual  Met ball, attempts to protect the future and past of fashion through the funds of fashion  and society elite.  

That place, where “the wind seemed brighter, and the sun warmer” was a place far from  the struggles of common humanity, where the privileged got to care about a cultured,  beautiful future, while an advancing army promised to change it all. While the story talked  about the passing of time, the descriptive ability of Ballard’s work gave us some clues  about what we could see at the MET gala.  

“The flowers in Axel’s hand had shrunk to the size of a glass thimble, the petals contracting  around the vanishing core”. This line from the story gives an insight into a garden of  translucent glass flowers that get affected by the cruelty of time. Elle Fanning understood  the assignment and wore a Balmain crystalline gown that fitted the ethereality of her  beauty. But it must not be forgotten that the event is also a huge promotional opportunity  for brands, which is why Karlie Kloss in her Schwarovsky crystal flower dress is living proof  of a partnership that adjusts to the theme while ensuring visibility, even if  many Twitter users ensured it lacked theatricality.  

Zendaya, however, was praised for the dramatic appeal of her outfit and acting, which took  us back to the runway shows of John Galliano in the 90s where models would adopt the  personality of their characters. The striking ocean-blue gown included a headpiece that set  the scene for her second look; a never-worn Galliano for Givenchy 1996 black sumptuous  dress adorned with a big flower bucket hat designed by Philip Tracey for Alexander  McQueen back in 2006. For that Spring/Summer collection, “The Princess and the Pea”  Galliano took inspiration from the entire history of fashion. The romantic historicism of this  second outfit turned heads among the fashion-savvy, in what I like to believe was a direct 

reference to the beautiful countess from Ballard’s story, which would be in line with the  elaborate stories that would serve as inspiration for John’s fashion shows. 

The darkness of this outfit kept commonalities with some of the other outfits, which  seemed to have taken the passing of time as something lugubrious, as was the case of  Emma Chamberlain on Jean Paul Gaultier or Gwendoline Christie and Bad Bunny wore  Margiela by Galliano who became some of the favorites of the night, expanding the reign  of the British designer as one of the favorites of the season. Another nod to a British  designer that conquered fashion, was made by Lana del Rey, who commanded the Met  steps with a custom Alexander McQueen by Seán McGirr, that referenced an archival  design from the house’s fall 2006 collection. 

This year’s Met gala exhibition also told the story of those objects that time has made too  delicate to ever be worn again, those “sleeping beauties” that will now only be admired on  museum display cases; like the dresses by Frederick Worth that are part of the newly  presented exposition under the topic “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion”, that is  perhaps the reason that time took a main role on Tyla’s look by Balmain for her inaugural  look, which represented time in a literal manner with sculptural sand shaping her body and  an hourglass bag as accessory. 

Time will inevitably affect garments and their appearance, although the history of these will  always prevail on the retina of those who have been lucky enough to present the effects of  those clothes that have been able to change the course of fashion history. And this  conservatorship function that the Met carries, is what makes the ball so important for the  industry, independently of the show that the attendees may provide.

Words: @edugilhurta