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The Business of the Met Ball: How a Party Became a Mini Industry

Beyonce in Givenchy at last year's Met Ball. This year, she and Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci are co-hosting the event, along with Rooney Mara and Vogue's Anna Wintour. Photo via Getty.
Beyonce in Givenchy at last year's Met Ball. This year, she and Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci are co-hosting the event, along with Rooney Mara and Vogue's Anna Wintour. Photo via Getty.

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The annual Met Gala will be taking place next Monday, and what a party it will be. For starters, Rooney Mara is hosting—along with Beyonce! Also, the theme is punk fashion, which means fashion stars and celebs will get the chance to have a little fun with their outfits (we're especially looking forward to the hair and makeup—you just know someone is going to decide it's the perfect occasion to bust out a mohawk). And in the name of wild speculations, John Galliano's work is being recognized in the accompanying Met exhibition—perhaps he'll make his first offical public appearance in two years?

Point is, there's really a lot to look forward to at this party.

But there's no such thing as a party for partying's sake these days, however. What was once essentially an occasion to celebrate the glamour of fashion has become strategically commodified, not unlike street style and Fashion Week. There's money to be made, and the industry is going after it.

Last year, the Gala—which honored the Schiaparelli-Prada exhibition at the Met—was timed to promote Baz Luhrman's movie The Great Gatsby, with the film's star Carey Mulligan co-hosting, Miuccia Prada collaborating on the film's costumes, and Luhrman doing the film installations for the exhibition. The Gala also became a kicking off point for the surprise relaunch of the Schiaparelli brand.

This year, the business angle is even more direct. The event's sponsor, Moda Operandi, has just revealed that they will be selling looks from the red carpet in live time during what they're calling a Spotlight event. "Events like the Met Gala offer some of the most spectacular fashion moments because they inspire experimentation," said Moda Operandi co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo in a press release. "We are thrilled to be able to provide women with access to the fashions from one the world's most thrilling red carpet events." Anthony Vacarello, Delpozo, Rodarte, Nina Ricci, Wes Gordon, and Balmain are some of the designers participating in the red carpet sale.

According to the Wall Street Journal, $20,000 gowns sell regularly on Moda Operandi, largely to Middle Eastern customers, who represent a fifth of their total business. Shoppers in the Middle East—and everywhere else, for that matter—will be able to watch the red carpet arrivals via carefully orchestrated livestreaming on Vogue.com, Moda, and the Met's website, as well as a special micro site created by Samsung.

This is in addition to a handful of more traditional commerce moves, like Gala-themed capsules and limited-edition products created for the occasion. Footwear designer of the year Charlotte Olympia is making a couple of punk-themed shoes (they have piercings), and Moda is also partnering with Balmain, Givenchy, Prabal Gurung, Thom Browne, and, Vivienne Westwood, among others, for a 100-piece collection of one-of-a-kind fashion items, rare vintage, and art objects that will be sold as part of an exclusive "punk collection" that will go live on the site May 2.

As far as the Spotlight event goes, however, it's a savvy move—and one of the only truly innovative e-commerce initiatives we've seen recently. Most red carpet events get mileage out of television and advertising (think about the Oscars). But the Met Gala has never been televised, and Conde Nast seems to be wisely skipping right over TV—a struggling industry—and going straight to the internet, turning what could be a liability into a selling point.

Even if you aren't one of the very few people in this world that can actually drop $20K on an evening gown, the concept is pretty exciting. And we imagine it's even more so if you do happen to be one of them.
· The Met Gala Live-Stream Is a Go! [Racked]
· All Met Gala coverage [Racked]