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Where TF were these American designers at the Met Gala?

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Vaquera, Stephen Sprouse, Telfar, and more of the names that could have saved the lacklustre event

ICYMI, last night saw the return of the Met Gala – after it was postponed in 2020, thanks to Miss Rona.  

After more challenging and esoteric themes, like 2019’s Camp: Notes on Fashion, this year’s was a little more straightforward, with the Costume Institute debuting its latest exhibition: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. 

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So, American fashion, stars and stripes, cowboys, and red, white, and blue – right? Well, not quite. While some of the country’s greats – from Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford to Jeremy Scott and Thom Browne – were in high demand, other attendees looked to Europe, erring in favour of names like Balenciaga, Versace, and Prada. 

Which left us wondering, where were some of our fave American design heavyweights? Since living a fantasy is far better than reality, here, we list the designers and looks we wish we had seen at last night’s event. Given that the exhibition is a two-parter and will return next year with In America: An Anthology of Fashion, there’s plenty of time for the celeb elite to get their commissions in now! 

TELFAR – AW17, LOOK 21

Is there a name making bigger waves in American fashion right now than Telfar Clemens? We’ll wait. The mastermind behind the most sought after bag in history, the affectionately named Brooklyn Birkin, Clemens was also not present last night – days after he announced the launch of Telfar TV (and a brand new bag) at his SS22 show. While America has been on the designer’s mind for a few seasons now, Oyinda’s Black cowgirl look from the AW17 collection has Zendaya’s name written all over it. 

STEPHEN SPROUSE – AW84 COLLECTION

Despite being an American great in his own right, it’s no surprise that Stephen Sprouse’s designs were sadly overlooked last night. Reviving any one of his signature graffiti-scrawled dresses – particularly the sequined dresses from AW94 – would have given its wearer some serious brownie points. 

VAQUERA – AW17, LOOK 18

Since the label was founded back in 2017, Vaquera’s brand ethos has been all about subverting American tropes with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude. OK, so an American flag dress is a bit on the nose for an American-themed Met Gala, but Vaquera’s take has just enough irony (and a gorgeous silhouette) to stop any eye rolls. A deadpan Kristen Stewart would have hit it out of the park. Alternatively, a riskier take could have come in the form of the Tiffany bag dress or the gargantuan gown that skimmed seats as it sashayed down the AW19 runway. Too many missed opportunities! 

MARC JACOBS – AW21, LOOK 24

For years, Marc Jacobs has been New York’s design enfant terrible. Pre-COVID, his shows always closed NYFW, a campy highlight that always felt like the cherry on top of the sundae. His presence was sorely missed last night – particularly since he’s been a frequent attendee over the years – both the man himself and his designs. The dark glamour of AW18 and the froufrou confections from SS19 would have been a little archive, as a treat. Or perhaps something more recent, like the meme-ready oversized eleganza from AW21. 

BOB MACKIE – LITERALLY ANYTHING

This one seems like a pretty obvious oversight. For all the glitzy gowns worn by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Michaela Coel, and Precious Lee, nobody thought to consult the OG? Just days ago, Lil Nas X revived a flamboyant feathered look originally worn by Elton John. Where was that energy last night?! 

BETSEY JOHNSON – SS96 COLLECTION

Thanks to Gen Z’s enduring obsession with everything Y2K, we’ve found a brand new appreciation for designers like Betsey Johnson whose peppy designs look right at home on the likes of Olivia Rodrigo. Besides, if it’s good enough for Rihanna, you can’t really go wrong. It’s not just teen glamour though, a peek into her grungier archive collections would have hit the spot too. 

HOOD BY AIR – SS17 COLLECTION

What’s New York fashion (the pinnacle of American design) without some riotous energy courtesy of longtime disruptor Hood By Air. After taking a hiatus back in 2017, the brand manifested a sister in the form of Anonymous Club last year, but it’s the OG HBA that still has us foaming at the mouth. With fetish popular on the red carpet last night with Evan Mock, Kim Kardashian and her date Demna Gvasalia, Shayne Oliver’s lubed-up SS17 designs would have been right at home. 

PROENZA SCHOULER – SS17, LOOK 37

Next year, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez will celebrate 20 years since they launched Proenza Schouler and as NYFW stalwarts, they were also oddly missing – though their new fave model Ella Emhoff was in attendance. While some of their more sophisticated recent collections might not stand out in the busy Met Gala crowd, a trip down memory lane when they flexed their glamour muscles a bit more would have been a reprise from the OTT Hollywood glitz.