In the world of pop culture, cancel culture has been having its moment for the past few years. The phrase occurs when a public figure is “canceled” or no longer receives support from the public. But some fans don’t want to write them off completely and still want to enjoy their work as a detached entity that has nothing to do with the artist’s morals. Although there is nuance to the dilemma, it is impossible to separate art from the artist, especially since art plays a major role in the actions of the artist.
Take rapper Kanye West, for example. He has been known for his controversial beliefs throughout his career, but the tipping point for most of the public was his anti-semitic remarks and open praise of Adolf Hitler last year. Some would argue that it is okay to still support his music and his fashion brand, Yeezy, but his beliefs seem to be intertwined with his work. In October, West featured “White Lives Matter” T-shirts in a collection. The controversial phrase is seen by many as a white supremacist mantra. It is often used to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. Vogue Magazine fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson described the shirt as “deeply offensive, violent and dangerous” and that it crossed the line of irony while, in turn, perpetuating racism. In this case, West’s personal beliefs are crossing into his art and it is hard to separate Yeezy from the heinous views of its artist. The brand Adidas cut ties with Yeezy due to West’s hate speech but will continue selling his designs without his branding.
Vogue announced that their 2023 Met Gala theme will be “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” honoring the late German designer and former Chanel creative director following his death in 2019. The benefit will take place on the first Monday of May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Lagerfeld has been known as the Hitchcock of the fashion world and one of the only designers equally as famous as the people he dresses. Yet Lagerfeld was quite the controversial figure. He made many fatphobic comments, including “no one wants to see curvy women on the runway” and said that singer Adele was “a little too fat,” but later apologized and said he was describing singer Lana Del Rey. He also voiced many controversial opinions on the MeToo Movement, migrants and gay marriage. He released a campaign where white model Claudia Schiffer was put in black and yellow face. It is strange to create a Met Gala surrounded by an individual in the first place, but even stranger when the individual is as controversial as Lagerfeld. Although he is widely known as a fashion genius, I don’t believe that the entire theme should be dedicated to just him —in doing so, Vogue is honoring not only his work but his persona. One can still appreciate his non-controversial looks without praising him as an individual by naming an entire benefit over him.
It is still possible to draw inspiration from famous designers whom you don’t respect as a person, but actively buying from brands with controversial pieces and honoring the personhood of a designer is another story. It hurts when our idols do hurtful things, but we must understand that their morals often intertwine with their work.