In case you didn’t know, tonight is the most important fashion night of the year. You might have thought the Oscars or Fashion’s Night Out or whichever day Anna Wintour cracked a smile in the front-row, but no, for real fashion people into real fashion — real risk-taking fashion — tonight, the Met Ball, is the most anticipated night of all. Similar to award shows, the event’s red carpet is where much of the evening’s news is made. In celebration of opening night of the Costume Institute’s newest exhibit, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations,” models like Karolina Kurkova and Iman, editors like Grace Coddington, Lauren Santo Domingo, and Wintour (of course), will brush past model-like actresses like Kate Bosworth, Diane Krueger and Tilda Swinton, all of whom will be escorted by the Ball’s real stars: the designers.
Tonight, beginning at 6:30 ET, Miuccia Prada, Michael Kors, Alexander Wang, Giambattista Valli, Prabal Gurung, Zac Posen (that’s Christina Ricci, at right, in a custom design of his last year), Alber Elbaz, Marc Jacobs and scores of other top designers will show off their wares on the backs of the beautiful as they make their way into the Costume Institute to get an early peek at the much-anticipated follow-up to last year’s McQueen retrospective, “Savage Beauty.” And, thanks to Vogue, the Met, and Amazon, all of which are live-streaming the arrivals, those not lucky enough to be there can see it all as it happens for the first time in the event’s 64-year history.
Whether Ms. Schiaparelli, in absentia, and Ms. Prada can eclipse the success of the late Mr. McQueen’s record-setting exhibit is to be seen. In just over five months, “Savage Beauty” attracted 661,509 total visitors (17,000 of whom paid a premium Monday entry fee of $50), which resulted in 23,000 new museum memberships. All new Costume Institute records. And then there was the swag. In addition to selling more than 100,000 copies of the exhibit’s pricey $45 catalogue, the “Savage Beauty” souvenirs — posters, books, miniature platform shoes fashioned after those in the designer’s FW 2010 collection — flew off the shelves in droves, bringing in millions of dollars’ worth of revenue.
Curated by Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, the same creative team that put together “Savage Beauty,” “Impossible Conversations” gets its inspiration from journalist Miguel Covarrubias’s “Impossible Interviews,” a popular Vanity Fair column during the 1930s. To recreate the dialogue between Schiaparelli and Prada, Koda and Bolton worked with filmmaker Baz Luhrmann on eight video “conversations” between the real Ms. Prada and Ms. Schiaparelli (“Schiap”), who is played by actress Judy Davis speaking actual dialogue from Schiap’s autobiography, Shocking Life.
There’s no question about it, Alexander McQueen’s legacy raised the profile of the Costume Institute’s annual event to a new level, ensuring the museum’s continued success for years and exhibits to come. Only time will tell whether Schiap and Prada’s new effort will strike a similar chord with fashion and non-fashion audiences alike. Regardless of the outcome, fashion and art are reaching more people than ever, and by any measure, that is success.