Because of the Met Gala, under the watchful eye of American Vogue editor-in-chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, the first Monday of May has become one of the more exciting fixtures on the fashion calendar. It has proven to be quite the fundraiser, raising $12 million for the museum’s Costume Institute for its Catholic-imagery themed iteration last year. It has also established Internet-breakage capacities: As soon as the red carpet goes live, you can be sure that the instant iconic moments, as well as the memes manufactured by the minute, will be retweeted, Storied, liked, and shared.
This year’s gala, whose theme, Camp: Notes on Fashion, will mine the seminal essay of philosopher Susan Sontag, Notes on “Camp,” as well as the rich camp tradition in the archives of fashion. The theme is in particularly good hands. Co-chairing with Wintour this year, for starters, are Harry Styles, who doesn’t shy away from flamboyant wardrobe choices, Serena Williams, who married camp with comfort with her black tutu number on the tennis court, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, who’s famous and infamous for flashy storytelling on the runway, and Lady Gaga, who’s, well, Lady Gaga.
The event’s Anna-Wintour OK-ed guest list turns out iconic look after iconic look, year after year (take Rihanna’s mitre last year and Sarah Jessica Parker’s self-referencing Oscar De La Renta gown, for example), and they will surely up the ante with a theme that specifically calls for extravagance and exaggeration.
There’s plenty of reason to be excited about what’s sure to be another unique and fun affair, and the excitement for me is deeply personal. I’m not always comfortable, let alone confident, in the skin that I’m in, A.K.A. “the first skin.” Clothes, the “second skin,” then, become both armor and sanctuary to me on a daily basis. As I fell more and more in love with fashion, I developed a personal style that draws so much from the abundance of camp right here at home. The Philippines is no stranger to camp. Look no further than the beauty pageants–the byucons–and our country’s affinity for them, for the comedy-bar and drag queens who are currently enjoying much-deserved mainstream attention, and for the teleseryes where larger-than-life characters and over-the-top soundbites abound in just about every scene. Look to our burgeoning fashion scene, to the runways, and the camp influences abound, ranging from the subtle to the all-out spectacle.
Rajo Laurel’s deconstruction of the baro’t saya, and his recent collection in collaboration with Hello Kitty, and his every creation that is a “moment” in itself, come to mind. So do Patty Ang’s holiday-glam coats, like the Elliot coat that’s now forever on my mind.
Despite the resurgence (and practicality) of minimalism, I find that adding a little extra (or a lot of extra) is what really sparks joy in me. And professing my love for fashion through subtle campy notes always gets mixed responses. The negative side, in a nutshell, is that I’m frivolous for fussing too much over fashion, making me me second-guess a gold tweed blazer or a pair of silk palazzo pants. Am I too much?
When I go online, I always get a hard no to that question. The Internet, particularly social media, is replete with voices harmonizing toward inclusivity, complete with the the many faces that are pushing back against the policing of free expression. These platforms, come the first Monday of May, will be filled for days with extravagant, elegant, and unapologetic representations of what’s too much to some, but just right to many. I’ve developed immunity (and a thicker first skin, to be sure) to the hate, but it’s also nice that in this year’s Met Gala, I’m getting backup from a celebrated philosopher, whose 58 notes I will use to buff my armor, and a star-powered red carpet that will offer various interpretations of my go-to second skin.