Riz Ahmed’s 2022 Met Gala outfit is a love letter to immigrant workers
Many of the men at tonight’s Met Gala red carpet delivered on the theme (“Gilded Glamour”) and dress code (white tie), wearing tailcoats and top hats that epitomized elegance expressive of New York high society at the turn of the century. A notable exception? Riz Ahmed, who walked the red carpet in double knee pants, an overshirt and a tank top. Where many guests completed their look with Gilded Age accessories such as top hats, canes and white bow ties, Ahmed wore a Cartier necklace reminiscent of Hyderabadi Indian jewelry. The most striking finishing touch, however, was the white lace – taken from a pair of Vans – that Ahmed wore as a belt.
The look, designed by New York label 4SDESIGNS and stylist Julie Ragolia, might have seemed off-theme at first glance. But as Ahmed explained before heading to the Met, it was about highlighting the other side of the Golden Age. “It’s about celebrating, canonizing and glorifying those people behind the scenes, those people who gilded the golden age,” he explained over the phone shortly before hitting the red carpet.
The Gilded Age, of course, saw huge amounts of wealth generated in New York, largely through the labor of immigrant workers. Which, Ahmed points out, is a lot like what’s happening today: “Part of what I really appreciate about this place is the waves of immigrants and workers that have kind of allowed this city to function, whether before the golden age. or now in its new golden age, or during the pandemic,” he said. “And so it’s in many ways a love letter to these blue-collar workers, these immigrant workers” who make the city work.
The look came together quickly, even by Met Gala fast standards. Ragolia got the call a week and a half ago that Ahmed needed a Met adjustment. Luckily, she had no doubts about where to go: “Riz and I have worked together for a few years, and we have a similar perspective on fashion and culture,” Ragolia said. Similar views also on the messages Ahmed wants to express through fashion. They both want people outside of the sometimes cloistered fashion world to see themselves in Ahmed’s outfits, for starters. “I wanted to do something thematically respectful but unexpected…As a stylist, I want to tell stories that go beyond the surface and speak to those that usually don’t have a voice,” said Ragolia said. And they also like to provoke and stimulate conversation. “I like breaking boundaries and breaking the internet when I can,” she added. As soon as Ahmed walked the red carpet, Twitter lit up with praise for his unconventional look. Mission accomplished!
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