Plenty of the men in attendance at tonight’s Met Gala delivered on the theme (“Gilded Glamour”) and the dress code (white tie), wearing coattails and top hats that embodied the expressive elegance of New York high society at the turn of the century. One notable exception? Riz Ahmed, who hit the red carpet in double-knee pants, an overshirt, and a tank top. Where many guests complimented their looks with Gilded Age accessories such as top hats, canes, and white bow ties, Ahmed wore a Cartier necklace reminiscent of Indian Hyderabadi jewelry. The most striking finishing touch, though, was the white shoelace—cribbed from a pair of Vans—Ahmed wore as a belt.
The look, conceived by NYC-based label 4SDESIGNS and the stylist Julie Ragolia, might have seemed off-theme at first glance. But as Ahmed explained before he headed to the Met, it was all about highlighting the other side of the Gilded Age. “This is about celebrating and canonizing and glorifying those people behind the scenes, those people that gilded the Gilded Age,” he explained over the phone shortly before hitting the red carpet.
The Gilded Age, of course, saw enormous amounts of wealth generated in New York City, much of it from the labor of immigrant workers. Which, Ahmed points out, sounds a lot like what’s happening today, too: “Part of what I really value about this place are the waves of immigrants and workers that have kind of kept this city running, whether it was before in the Gilded Age or now in its new Gilded Age, or during the pandemic,” he said. “And so this is in many ways a bit of a love letter to those blue collar workers, those immigrant workers” who keep the city running.
The look came together quickly, even by the Met Gala’s fast-paced standards. Ragolia got the call a week and a half ago that Ahmed needed a Met fit. Luckily, she had no doubt of the direction to go: “Riz and I have been working together for a few years, and we have a similar viewpoint about fashion and culture,” Ragolia said. Similar viewpoints, too, about the messages Ahmed wants to express through fashion. They both want people outside of the sometime-cloistered fashion world to see themselves in Ahmed’s outfits, for one. “I wanted to do something respectful of the theme but unexpected… As a stylist I want to tell stories that go beyond the surface and speak about those that are not usually given a voice,” Ragolia said. And they both like to provoke and stimulate conversation, too. “I like to break boundaries and break the internet when I can,” she added. As soon as Ahmed hit the red carpet, Twitter lit up with praise for the unconventional look. Mission accomplished!