How a Fast Fashion Brand Made Some of the Best Dresses at the Met Gala

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Jennifer Hudson’s white strapless dress was made of a silk base and hand embroidered at the bust, with French knots and then rows of beads, sequins, and flowers gradually fading down the body and rows of crystal beading and hand-gathered ruffles down the train. (Images: Getty Images/Courtesy H&M)

The Met Gala’s red carpet is one of the most prominent stages for couture. The prestigious event offers designers an invaluable opportunity to display their offerings on top models and actors. Balmain, Givenchy, Moschino, Valentino, and more houses have been attending for decades, consistently making best-dressed lists, but a fast fashion company is giving the established brands a run for their top spots.

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“Oh, I love that it’s so beautiful,” Wohlfahrt says of Ciara’s look. She notes that the diamond grid, metal dress is “so dramatic, it’s a mix of traditional and futuristic, like art deco with sport.” (Images: Getty Images/Courtesy H&M)

For 2016, H&M outfitted Ciara, Jennifer Hudson, Amber Valletta, Hailee Steinfeld, Pyper America Smith, and Lucky Blue Smith. Each adhered to the technology theme, which many other guests didn’t abide by, with fashion employing futuristic techniques. “We live in a world that is getting more technical; that at the same time, there is a growing want and need for things that are unique,” Pernilla Wohlfahrt, design and creative director at H&M, tells Yahoo Style of “Manus x Machina.” Because of this, Wohlfahrt and her team, who’ve been working on all the looks since December, tried to mix traditionally handmade techniques — embroidery, sequins, beading, and flowers — with innovative ones, such as laser cutting, heat transferring, and techno mesh paneling.

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Model Pyper America’s gown was made of laser cut feathers and fringing from iridescent vinyl. Her brother Lucky Blue’s ensemble consisted of a white tuxedo with Swarovski buttons and leather pants in a blue metallic coating. (Images: Getty Images/Courtesy H&M)

All of the ensembles were painstakingly suited to the celebrities wearing them. “It’s very important to us that they feel comfortable and beautiful in what they’re wearing,” Wohlfahrt explains of the process. Their goal was to reflect their personality — which was very evident in Ciara’s stunning sheer gown and Lucky Blue’s blue pants. “It’s so exciting and such a challenge and such interesting work to do, and to work together with them within the frame of this theme is very exciting.”

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The beads on Valletta’s gown are made of recycled plastic. (Images: Getty Images/Courtesy H&M)

For Valletta, who’s passionate about the environment and is a fan of H&M’s Conscious collection, using sustainable materials was incredibly important. “Fashion thrives on ingenuity and innovation and being sustainable, and using organic and sustainable materials is modern,” the model and actress tells Yahoo Style. “It’s fashion forward.”

While a dedicated team and resources have been focused on these select pieces, the philosophy behind creating mass-produced crop tops isn’t entirely different. “The process is of course different,” Wohlfahrt readily admits. “We make clothes for millions of people, and here we are trying to reflect one personality.” Yet, she points out, that there are similarities. “We always have our customer or the person who’s going to wear the thing in mind. The fun of fashion and the enthusiasm for fashion is in both processes.”

H&M’s not the only mass brand to break into the glamorous high-fashion world. Topshop’s joined the tribe in the past few years as well, having dressed Nick Jonas, Douglas Booth, Kate Upton, Taylor Hill, and others. Is Forever 21 next?

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