The story behind every H&M gown (and suit) on the Met Gala red carpet

Every year at the Met Gala, a few celebrities manage to surprise us not with their over-the-top couture but with looks created by fast-fashion brands you know, love, and probably shop. One of those red carpet constants is H&M.

In past years, the Swedish retailer has outfitted Ashley Graham, Jennifer Hudson, and Sarah Jessica Parker for the event, known as “the Oscars of fashion.” And in 2018, for the opening of the Costume Institute’s themed “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibit, H&M dressed six attendees: actresses Lili Reinhart, Olivia Munnand Kiersey Clemons; models Jasmine Sanders and Alek Wek; and fashion It-boy Luka Sabbat.

Glamour spoke with Ann-Sofie Johansson, the brand’s Creative Advisor, about the making of each look.

“We didn’t know what to really expect from the theme,” she tells us. “But when the design team started to dig into it – and they did a lot of research – it was so inspirational. It was quite easy to come up with a lot of different ideas for dresses. The ones we came up with are really inspired from different types of things within the ‘Heavenly Bodies’ category, so to speak – we have the chainmail, for example, very much taken from the armor of medieval knights.”

“Even before knowing the theme, we started to talk about about what we see when it comes to party dresses, what we feel,” Johansson explains. Once the Costume Institute announces the exhibit, the design team’s work simply becomes more focused – that’s when they start with the research. H&M looked at medieval art, sacred Catholic symbology and objects, and architecture to inform its design for the 2018 Met Gala. And you’ll see that translated into the garments through rhinestones and beading (inspired by rosaries), round shapes (modeled after the vaults and windows in churches, as seen in ), draping fabrics and robes (like what members of the clergy will wear), among other design elements, like the recurring use of gold and red.

Another design element that appears across multiple Met Gala 2018 red carpet looks is the use of chainmail Johansson mentioned earlier: “The design team really thought it was fun to explore the material and how to turn that into a beautiful dress – because it’s quite challenging to work that type of chainmail, but at the same time it’s enchanting and alluring,” she says, adding that “there’s something special” about working with chainmail in this capacity, of transforming a hard material into a soft silhouette. “Even though we take inspiration from the historical, you always need to turn it into a contemporary thing. That’s the balance there, between the historical theme and modernity.”

Learn the full story of every H&M look at the 2018 Met Gala, ahead.

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