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Filipino pride at a Met Gala of diversity

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 22, 2021 5:00 am

Interpreting the theme “American Independence” for the Met Gala, the fashion world’s most-awaited party, Fil-American rapper Saweetie chose to highlight both her Filipino and Black heritage through her stunning Christian Cowan gown with a flowing cape representing the Philippine and Black-American Heritage flags, “’cause I’m Black and Filipino and that’s what makes me an American girl,” she told the press at the red carpet.

Delighting Filipino fans all over the world, she and fellow Fil-American singer Olivia Rodrigo, also in attendance, were fresh from the MTV Video Music Awards, where they were recognized for their work, another source of pride for their followers.

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Held IRL every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York except for last year when it went virtual due to the pandemic, the fundraising gala launches the museum’s annual fashion exhibition. This year, it’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which curator Andrew Bolton has conceptualized to explore national identity through the lens of politics and current concerns raised by last year’s social-justice movements, which also prompted the expansion of the Met’s archives to include more contributions from designers of color and marginalized groups.

 Saweetie in Christian Cowan (via @christiancowan)

Aside from checking the box for the affair’s emphasis on diversity, Saweetie also won points for choosing one of America’s young designers whom the curator credits for “engaging thoughtfully and deeply with conversations around inclusivity, sustainability, gender fluidity and body positivity.”

America’s mix of cultures was also channeled by top tennis pro Naomi Osaka, one of the evening’s co-chairs, who wore a Louis Vuitton dress that had exaggerated ruffled sleeves evoking the carnival from her Haiti roots and an obi-style belt referencing her Japanese ancestry.

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Quannah Chasinghorse, a breakout Indigenous model at NY Fashion Week, showcased her culture through silver and turquoise jewelry from the Navajo Nation in Arizona where she was partially raised. They complemented her Peter Dundas gold lamé dress from the Dundas x Revolve American Dream collection.

 Quannah Chasinghorse in Peter Dundas. Photo: Patrick Phillips / courtesy of IMG Models

Going the way of traditional American icons, the Wild West was a favorite theme. Jennifer Lopez did hers in a Ralph Lauren embroidered gown with plunging neckline, thigh-high slit and a cowgirl hat.

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Maluma was a red leather-hot cowboy thanks to Donatella Versace, who proudly had him on her arm as the only accessory she needed that night.

 Maluma and Donatella Versace. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Hollywood icons were aplenty with co-chair Billie Eilish in a voluminous peach Oscar de la Renta gown that had a Marilyn Monroe-meets-Holiday Barbie vibe. She wore the piece on the condition that the brand stop using real fur in their collections, a nod to the sustainability that Bolton was talking about.

Lorde, another advocate for the environment, wore Bode’s ensemble of repurposed antique components topped by a jeweled headdress that was like the Statue of Liberty’s crown with fireworks.

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Emily Blunt’s Liberty came in a crystal beaded dress by Miu Miu and a headdress of pavé stars.

Hamish Bowles had the statue’s crown in black matched with his Thom Browne coat, pleated skirt and pointy correspondent shoes beribboned in red, white and blue.

 Debbie Harry in Zac Posen. Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

The American flag colors also featured in Debbie Harry’s outfit from Zac Posen: a denim jacket and hooped skirt with red and white strips of fabric fluttering away as she sashayed.

For Olympian Megan Rapinoe, her American colors had a layer of LGBTQ+ colors as well, matching her red pantsuit and blue star-spangled blouse by Sergio Hudson with a clutch that read “In Gay We Trust.”

Another Olympian, Tom Daley, known as the viral knitter, chose to highlight his hobby in a Moschino suit that had leather cords interlaced through grommets.

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In Dan Levy’s outfit by Loewe, it was two men that interlocked in a kiss embroidered on his balloon-sleeved top, a chance “to celebrate queer love and visibility.”

 Lil Nas X in Versace  ( via @versace)

For Lil Nas X, being seen was certainly no problem as he arrived in a custom Versace version of a Matryoshka doll with three layers of different looks, from the biggest gold cape to Star Wars C-3PO armor and a crystal beaded bodysuit — a metaphor for his recent coming out.

Barbie Ferreira, an advocate for body positivity, was confident and resplendent in a pearl-encrusted Jonathan Simkhai flapper-meets-burlesque number.   

The freedom to be one’s true self and to be comfortable in one’s own skin — regardless of gender, color or body type — after all, is what independence is all about, highlighting the gala’s theme, which is all the more relevant during the pandemic when we realize the importance of authenticity, inclusivity and a respect for diversity so that we can be united in meeting the challenges that we face in the world today.