Leading us beyond the velvet rope, #AboutLastNight social shares and celebrity outfit galleries, Andrew Rossi’s new documentary helps us see fashion’s biggest party in a new light.
It may be no surprise to know that when it comes to the Met Ball, it's Anna Wintour who is in charge. Whether it's deciding on party design, napkins or just when she gets handed her Venti coffee order, it's the Vogue editor-in-chief who is bossing it. But in Andrew Rossi's documentary about The Met museum exhibition and the party that precedes it, we also get a peek behind the scenes on what it takes to stage fashion's biggest party of the year. Here are some of the things we gleaned from The First Monday in May.
1. The Met Ball is Anna Wintour's Party
In Rossi's behind the scenes doc, Wintour holds boardroom meetings about seating plans, soirees at her Manhattan to talk table settings with creative consultant Baz Luhrmann and makes sure on the night she's got the best seat in the house, sandwiched between George Clooney and Bradley Cooper.
2. Wintour is also a huge part of the exhibition machinery
In 2015, The Met's show China: Through the Looking Glass sought to reflect how eastern culture influences western fashion. It proves a tricky proposition politically, given how easily it might slip into pastiche or cliché. Wintour cuts to the chase in an exhibition design meeting, describing a proposed space as "looking like a Chinese restaurant". It is quickly revised.
3. Anna still likes her Starbucks to go
Vogue's editor-in-chief is rarely seen without a coffee in hand, or, most memorably, plucking it from a quivering intern's paw.
4. It may be Anna's party but the show is Andrew Bolton's baby
The Lancashire born curator - and partner of Thom Browne - is as meticulous about museum detail as his Vogue counterpart is hot on celebrity. Away from the red carpet, Rossi's camera follows Bolton as he fusses with the train of a dress in the exhibition and once finished, goes back to fiddle with it again. The show, he admits, operates under expectations set by the record breaking McQueen exhibition (the 2011 show was also his idea). But if that makes Bolton sweat, it's hidden beneath a quaintly English exterior.
5. Do not mistake that northern charm for softness
Bolton delivers some serious shade to The Met's more traditionalist elements, who believe fashion (and a big celebrity party) don't belong at the museum. "Some people have a very 19th Century idea of what art is," he says in the film. "There are people within the museum who still dismiss fashion."
6. You can rely on Andre Leon Talley to deliver on the to-camera hyperbole
The Vogue contributing editor's take on the launch event? "Since Anna's taken over the Met Ball, it has become the Superbowl of fashion events.."
7. The guest list is tight
The Ball had 608 guests in 2014. For 2015, Anna would like it as low as 500, news to put Hollywood A Listers on letterbox watch.
8. And if you want someone to knock that guest list into shape, ask Anna
"And everybody's cutting their numbers, right Harold?" the Vogue editor-in-chief suggests to Met costume institute's curator in charge Harold Koda. "You'll figure it out."
9. If you're been having a bit of a slow year of it on the work front, forget about an invite
As Sylvana Ward Durrett, director of Special Projects at Vogue, when discussing potential invitees, puts it: "We have Dave Franco. Then we have Josh Hartnett. What has he done lately? Nothing."
10. It's not simply the celebrities that get vetted
Forks, napkins, flowers, lighting, ushers: Anna casts her eye over them all.
11. The seating arrangement is thought out like a military strategy
Considerations as to where two famouses will sit include if they sat next to each other last year and if they sat next to each other at other events this year. Let us all take a moment to pause and reflect on the intern that had to draw up a spreadsheet marked 'everywhere everyone famous has sat for the last year'.
12. You get to go to the Ball, but only if you behave
At one point during invitee discussions in The First Monday in May, an unnamed celebrity gets the green light from Wintour. There's just one thing: 'Ok, can he not be on his cell phone the entire time then?' she tells her staff. 'Maybe send him that message.'
13. Rihanna costs
The exact cost of getting RiRi to perform at your charity gala is politely bleeped out by the documentary makers. But it definitely runs to the hundreds of thousands and it's definitely more than they forked out for Kanye previously.
14. "This is the black Frozen! This is the queen of the night!"
Here again, Andre proves he's worth every dollar spent on his majestic gowns with his meme friendly summary of Rihanna on the red carpet.
15. "What the fuck is this?"
The best way to address stepping on to the Met Ball red carpet, courtesy of Curb Your Enthusiam's Larry David.
The First Monday in May is in cinemas from Friday 30th September.
Text Colin Crummy