Models and climate activists hit the streets to protest the star-studded 2023 Met Gala

Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff spoke at a rally Sunday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ahead of Monday's Met Gala.
(Courtesy of Reed Young via Model Alliance)

It’s Met Gala Monday and not everyone was excited — climate activists blocked Paris Hilton’s car from arriving at the Costume Institute’s grand ball and models condemned the gala’s honoree on the Met’s steps.

The 2023 Met Gala kicked off with a bang (and a few honks) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s the most extravagant red carpet haute couture event of the year, which depending on whom you ask is “the Super Bowl of social fashion events” (André Leon Talley) or “such a jerk parade” (Tina Fey).

Each year, the Met Gala ensembles worn by the most powerful and influential celebrities adhere to a unique theme, and this year’s theme, which asked attendees to dress “in honor of Karl,” has raised more than a few eyebrows.


Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019, made headlines through the years for his irreverent and offensive takes on hot button issues, including the #MeToo movement and body positivity.

Lily Collins wears a gown with a bedazzled "Karl" adorned to the train of her dress.
Lily Collins attends the 2023 Met Gala celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
(Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for the Met Museum)

The Model Alliance (an advocacy organization for fashion industry workers) held a rally on the steps of the Met on Sunday condemning the Costume Institute’s choice of honoree.

Chanel was a faded fashion empire when Karl Lagerfeld arrived to see if he could pump life back into the tired brand.

Feb. 19, 2019

“This year’s Met Gala, which happens to fall on International Workers’ Day, will honor the creative genius of Karl Lagerfeld,” Ziff told rally attendees and fellow protesters. “What will undoubtedly be left unsaid about Lagerfeld, who I worked with regularly as a model, is any mention of his problematic attitude toward women who didn’t fit his harmful and outdated standards.”

Lagerfeld told a German magazine in 2009 that the only people who objected to thin models were “fat mommies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly.” Lagerfeld, the creative director of Chanel at the time, added that the fashion world was all about “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.”

Jeremy Pope wears a white cape with Karl Lagerfeld's face on the train.
Jeremy Pope, with a Lagerfeld train, attends Monday’s gala.
(Mike Coppola / Getty Images)

Lagerfeld also had choice remarks during the #MeToo movement, telling international fashion magazine Numéro in 2018 that he was “fed up” with the movement and calling the models who spoke out about abuse “stupid,” “toxic” and “sordid creatures.”

“If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”

The fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute is a showcase for celebrity couture. Here are the best looks from the 2023 edition.

May 1, 2023


To protect models from the abuse that’s long run rampant in the industry, the Model Alliance is pushing to pass the Fashion Workers Act in New York, a bill proposing basic protections for models by regulating model management companies.

“Having worked for the most prestigious modeling agencies in New York City for over 25 years, I have experienced firsthand how insidious and corrupt the fashion business — specifically the modeling industry — is. Abusive practices, [including] rampant wage theft, sexual abuse and exploitation, enabling drug addictions and sex trafficking, are only a few of the nightmares that models of all ages have to endure if they are represented by a corrupt agency,” former top modeling agent Carolyn Kramer said Sunday at the rally.

“Most models are manipulated by agencies to sign contracts while being told that they will become ‘stars’ when in reality statistics show that models are thrown into exorbitant debt because there are no legal safety nets or protection in the modeling industry. Change is long overdue, and I’m proud to stand with the Model Alliance in support of the Fashion Workers Act.”

The clothing industry is responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined, the U.N. says.

Nov. 3, 2019

Also protesting the fashion industry’s grand ball were climate activists.

The textile industry is responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined, according to the United Nations Environment Program. And fast fashion doesn’t carry the burden for those numbers alone — remember when Burberry caught flack for burning its unsold products to uphold their exclusivity in 2018? Luxury brand Stefano Ricci admitted to the same practice.

As Paris Hilton’s car inched its way toward the Met Gala’s high society steps on Monday afternoon, the reality star moments away from sliving her first Met Gala appearance, climate change protesters rushed the street.


Several protesters sat in a line blocking the motorcade that was bringing movie stars dressed in Lagerfeld-esque tweed and pearls and black gowns with white collars to honor the late Lagerfeld.

Chants and rally cries were yelled from the middle of the intersection, and a banner that read “The 1% are killing the climate” was stretched out in front of Hilton’s car.