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Is the Met Gala Worth the Investment?

For dozens of brands, dressing stars for the Met Gala comes at a significant cost. It’s not always clear how they should measure their return on investment, writes Imran Amed.
En route to the Met Gala with Omar Apollo, Luca Guadagnino, Global Brand Ambassador Jamie Dornan, Global Brand Ambassador Josh O’Connor, Alison Oliver, Ambika Mod, Ayo Edebiri, Jonathan Anderson, Mike Faist, and Dan Levy.
En route to the Met Gala with Omar Apollo, Luca Guadagnino, Global Brand Ambassador Jamie Dornan, Global Brand Ambassador Josh O’Connor, Alison Oliver, Ambika Mod, Ayo Edebiri, Jonathan Anderson, Mike Faist, and Dan Levy. (Loewe)

LONDON — It’s already Friday, and my Instagram feed is still flooded with content from the Met Gala. Not just photos from this year’s garden-themed green carpet, but also Vanity Fair-style photo shoots featuring the groups of stars dressed by the same brands, behind the scenes videos, sketches and voice notes on the making of the biggest Met Gala moments, as well as an avalanche of photos from the afterparties that took place around New York City later that night.

Participating in the Met Gala comes with a significant investment for the brands that choose to join the festivities. A single ticket to attend this year’s event cost $75,000, though some brands like Balenciaga and Tommy Hilfiger bought entire tables for $350,000 or more, according to The New York Times.

But that’s just the beginning. There are other costs to take into account too. Each bold-faced name who attends needs to be dressed in a custom look, flown to New York, housed in a five-star hotel (usually the Mark Hotel or the Carlyle Hotel which are near the museum) and then offered hair, makeup, styling and other beauty treatments to look their absolute best on the day.

Some brands even go to the extra effort of creating custom looks for the afterparties. In addition to red carpet looks encrusted with hundreds of thousands of Swarovski crystals for Karlie Kloss, Anok Yai, Irina Shayk and Imaan Hammam, global creative director of Swarovski Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert also created custom looks so she and her crew could hit the town afterwards in outfits that were colour-coordinated with the looks they wore earlier in the evening.

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(L-R) Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, Anok Yai, Imaan Hammam and Karlie Kloss attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion."
(L-R) Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, Anok Yai, Imaan Hammam and Karlie Kloss attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion." (Getty Images)

Loewe, which was a sponsor of this year’s exhibition, dressed a total of 12 guests including new fashion it-girls Greta Lee, Taylor Russell and Ayo Edebiri, pop superstar Ariana Grande, actresses Ambika Mod and Alison Oliver, and an all-star cast of stylish men including singer-songwriter Omar Apollo, “Challengers” stars Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor (who is also a Loewe global brand ambassador) and director Luca Guadagnino, as well as frequent Loewe fashion plate Dan Levy.

And of course there was Anna Wintour who wore a satin Loewe column dress with a stunning long black tuxedo coat embroidered with hand-dyed feathers in the shape of tulips, requiring hours of meticulous hand-work by the specialist feather work company Maison Février, founded in 1929, which according to its website is one of the last plumassiers in the world.

But brands are understandably tight-lipped about how much they spend. Loewe likely got a big table as part of its estimated $2 million sponsorship deal. Adding in all the other expenses of bringing these people to the Gala would take the total cost well beyond that, resulting in a back-of-the envelope estimate of about $250,000 per attendee.

So is the Met Gala worth the investment?

An entire industry has developed around trying to put a dollar value on the conversations and content generated by big events like these, from fashion shows to the Superbowl. And every year just after the gala has finished, the BoF team receives press releases from a growing number of companies who claim to have cracked the code on who won the Met Gala.

But comparing the findings from these companies, each of which has their own methodology to measure the volume of the online conversation and the engagement it generates, surfaces some pretty significant inconsistencies.

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Take for instance the difference in findings on the most talked about and visible brands at this year’s Met Gala. According to Lefty, the most visible brand was Thom Browne (who dressed Gigi Hadid and Cynthia Erivo, among others) based on 34 posts generating $2 million in earned media value or EMV, which the company defines as “the equivalent ad spend of the impressions gained, calculated by estimating the number of impressions of each publication and associating a CPM of $100, equivalent to $1 per engagement.” This sounds like $1 per like, comment and share.

Over at CreatorIQ, which has its own measure of EMV analysing co-mentions of a brand with the hashtag #metgala based on three factors: platforms, audience engagement and creators. So for example, a YouTube video is accorded more EMV than a tweet; an Instagram post that gains lots of likes and comments has more value than those where a user just scrolls by, and brands are not rewarded for engagement on their own posts, just on the posts created by third parties, which in this case would include posts created by celebrities, who often have terms in their contracts about how much they have to post and where.

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(L-R) Bang Chan, Han, Felix, Seungmin, Hyunjin, I.N, Lee Know, and Changbin of Stray Kids attend The 2024 Met Gala.
(L-R) Bang Chan, Han, Felix, Seungmin, Hyunjin, I.N, Lee Know, and Changbin of Stray Kids attend The 2024 Met Gala. (Getty Images)

According to CreatorIQ, the most talked about brand was Tommy Hilfiger, with more than $5 million in earned media value based on 212 posts by 114 creators. Tommy dressed Madelyn Cline as well as eight members of the K-pop supergroup Stray Kids, which generated much of this conversation.

There are other companies that are in the metrics game too. Dash Hudson — which did its own ranking of most talked-about fashion brands using its “proprietary, AI-powered social listening tool” based on engagement rates — and Brandwatch also issued rankings crowning Tommy Hilfiger on top. But the rest of their top 5 brands look different. In total, Burberry, Maison Margiela and Loewe each get 2 mentions in the top five across these data providers. Eleven other brands get one mention each.

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The same phenomenon plays out when looking at how these data providers ranked the most talked about celebrities. According to Lefty, the most talked about celebrities based on EMV generated were Ariana Grande, Kendall Jenner, Felix from Stray Kids, Bollywood film star Alia Bhatt and Kim Kardashian.

But Dash Hudson says the stars generating most engagements were Stray Kids (as a group), followed by Zendaya, Gigi Hadid, Sarah Jessica Parker and the couple Dove Cameron and Damiano David.

As these are generally volume-based metrics, we know which brands are being talked about, but there is little insight into what people were actually saying. Undoubtedly, participating in the gala brings global media interest and generates a huge online conversation for the brands that get it right. But exactly how you measure the return on investment is a lot more murky.

It’s quite a feat that Tommy Hilfiger secured the entire Stray Kids crew, but much of the reaction I saw on Instagram and the Vogue livestream was a flurry of emojis from their fandom. I think their red carpet moment probably created more value for Stray Kids, introducing the band to people who don’t follow K-pop, than for Tommy Hilfiger.

In the end, measuring a Met Gala investment should not just be about the total conversation generated, but about the fit with a brand’s strategy and how it resonates with the brand’s customers. In that respect, the big winners of the night were Maison Margiela designed by John Galliano — leveraging looks from the viral Artisanale fashion show he staged in Paris in January to dress some of the biggest names of the night including Kim Kardashian, Zendaya, Gwendoline Christie, Ariana Grande and Bad Bunny — and Loewe, who put together a constellation of talents that reflected the brand’s influence and presence across contemporary culture.

Stay tuned for the second edition of BoF’s Brand Magic Index, powered by Quilt.ai, out on May 20, which takes a crack at providing a more nuanced view of brand conversation and customer alignment between October 2023 and March 2024.

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This Weekend on The BoF Podcast

Vanessa FriedmanOpens in new window
(Courtesy)
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In case you want to hear more about the Met Gala, this week on The BoF Podcast, I’m joined by New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman who shares her journey into fashion journalism, reflects on what this year’s Met Gala says about the state of fashion and culture and of course, dissects the standout looks, of the night.

“Anna Wintour has raised the ante every year to the extent that this Met Gala made $26 million in one night,” she says. “The amount of social media impressions it generates is beyond compare. The guest list that she curates, because it is an entirely curated guest list, is like nothing else.”

Wishing you all a great weekend!

Imran Amed, Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, The Business of Fashion

P.S. Over the last six months, Farfetch and Matches, two of the biggest names in luxury e-commerce have imploded and subsequently sold at a fraction of their one-time sky high valuations. Join me for a special private conversation on Wednesday, May 15 at 17:00 BST / 12:00 EDT examining what these seismic changes mean for the industry, what the next phase of luxury e-commerce might look like and how you can prepare your business for an uncertain future. Become an Executive Member to join the call.

Plus, here are my other top picks from our analysis on fashion, luxury and beauty:

1. Fashion’s Supply Chain Is Still Full of Banned Chinese Cotton. A study published this week found traces of cotton from Xinjiang in nearly a fifth of the products it examined, highlighting the challenges brands face in policing their supply chains even as requirements to do so spread to raw materials from diamonds to leather and palm oil.

An aerial photo shows cotton bales waiting to be transported in a cotton field in Hami, Xinjiang Province, China.Opens in new window
(Getty Images)

2. At the Met Gala, the Fantasy Was Intact. Despite threats of disruption from protests, the Condé Nast union and TikTok’s legal woes, the event continued as planned with attendees dazzling in bespoke and archival ensembles.

Co-chair Zendaya wore not just one, but two dresses to Monday's Met Gala.Opens in new window
(Getty Images)

3. Is Generative AI the New Fashion-Tech Bubble? The extraordinary expectations placed on the technology have set it up for the inevitable comedown. But that’s when the real work of seeing whether it can be truly transformative begins.

An AI-generated scene depicts a woman walking down a rain-slicked street bright with the reflected neon lights from buildings around.Opens in new window
(CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

4. Fixing Retail’s Sales Floor to C-Suite Pipeline. Fashion retailers are promoting fewer store employees into corporate roles, missing out on key expertise and diversity as a result.

From Sales floor to c-suiteOpens in new window
(BoF Team)

5. When Will India’s Streetwear Scene Become Big Business? Local streetwear brands, festivals and stores selling major global labels remain relatively small but the country’s community of hypebeasts and sneakerheads is growing fast.

Campaign images from the recent jewellery and apparel collections from Indian streetwear brand VegNonVeg.Opens in new window
(VegNonVeg)

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