The Baltimore Met Gala II: The Four Elements

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On August 26th 2023, the newly renovated M&T Bank Exchange flooded with guests donned fabrics of every hue, in sequins, tulle, feathers, and warm smiles. For the second annual Baltimore MET Gala, the stylish elite took on this year’s theme (the four elements) and they didn’t do it lightly. You could feel the excitement in line as those waiting guessed at each other’s inspiration: earth, air, fire, and water. The outpouring of creativity was a feast for the eyes. Attendees left NO crumbs!

It is rare to attend an event where each component delivers. This year’s gala was a fusion of art, fashion, culinary art, and philanthropy, designed to set a new bar in the celebration of Baltimore culture. Organized by Derrick Chase and LaRian Finney, after the first event hosted at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2022, it consisted of a culinary installation coordinated by Black Owned Restaurant Tour (bort) creator Azikiwe DeVeaux, five visual artists (Ernest Shaw, Kolpeace, Chukwudumebi Gabriel Amadi-Emina, Kevin Tucker, and Ainsley Burrows), and an awards ceremony for city and state leaders, including Kweisi Mfume.

However, the central part of this event was a dramatic runway show featuring over one hundred and fifty models, each wearing a line of element-themed garments by nine Baltimore-based designers: Andrew Nowell, Jody Davis, Brandon Warren, Caitlyn Beverly (Audacity Brand), Earle Bannister, Evette Monique, Afua Sam (Studio D’Maxsi), Rania Younis (Shop the Runway), and Deramine Johnson (Madison Walker).

Helen-Audrey Adom and Desney Johnson wearing Brandon Warren
Tiara Booker wearing Evette Monique Couture
Nia Moore wearing Jody Davis Couture

“Craftsmanship is different from functionality,” says Chase. “How people feel is a reflection of art and people feel connected.” The Baltimore MET Gala is a celebration and fundraiser. It highlights the many art forms and talents ingrained in the fabrics of this city, while supporting community organization Park Heights Renaissance, a non-profit corporation and coalition of Park Heights residents, businesses, and area stake-holders, all working together to help this northwest region of Baltimore thrive.

“Our core mission and major fabric of our team culture is being of service,” says Finney. “Recognizing individuals and corporations that intentionally impact elements critical to a thriving city: economic empowerment, community development, strong families, federal and city collaboration, and a thriving arts scene.”

“This fundraising event is not just a one-day commitment, it’s a year-long investment in the Park Heights community, to raise funds to fight for this important part of Baltimore history,” adds Chase. “The Baltimore MET Gala celebrates ideas and fashion as an outward expression of how people feel in their soul… The common thread of the event is the fashion.”

In a dramatic runway show, each fashion designer approached the four elements theme in a unique and seemingly effortless way. It was apparent that each challenged themselves to incorporate specific components within their selected elements outside of the anticipated color combinations and silhouettes.

For each designer, the search for inspiration varied from glancing outside their kitchen windows, researching precious stones, watching videos of different types of fires, and considering natural phenomena and environmental actions, embodying them in beautiful garments worn by models of all shapes and sizes and, in a few cases, dogs.

We are thrilled that artist and fashion photographer Kelvin Bulluck was able to set up a studio during the event in order to photograph many of the designers and models throughout the course of the evening.


Models Dionna Nicole, Jordan Pitts, and Lauren Easley wearing Shop the Runway
Donikka Williams wearing Studio D’Maxsi
Madison Grissom wearing Studio D’Maxsi
Londo wearing Andrew Nowell
Taylor Williams wearing Madison Walker
Afua Sam wearing Studio D’Maxsi
Jayla Briscoe and Brandi Caver in Tuxedos by Tuxedo House
Tedora Matthews wearing Audacity Brand
RJ Dyson wearing Audacity Brand
Marie Seagrave wearing Studio D’Maxsi
Astaris-Michael Yates wearing Studio D’Maxsi

Header Image: Gabrielle Carter wearing couture gown by Brandon Warren

This story is from Issue 16: Collaboration, available here.

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