When Michael Kors took the stage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday night to be interviewed before a live audience as part of the museum's "The Atelier" talk series, he was surely expecting a calm, standard-issue chat about fashion. But that was not to be the case: Just 15 minutes or so into host Alina Cho's onstage conversation with Kors, a man came striding down the aisle of the auditorium playing shrieking animal sounds from his cellphone.
There was a beat of confusion, then suddenly the aisle was streaming with dozens of PETA demonstrators, carrying signs and chanting slogans like "Michael Kors has blood on his hands," "he's a monster who knowingly kills animals by gassing them," and "animal fur is not fashion!"
The demonstrators were so loud that the talk came to an immediate halt, and Cho and Kors appeared so shellshocked that they at first seemed glued to their seats. This was true even after the demonstrators came onstage and were literally circling them. The stars of the evening weren't the only ones who were slow to move — no security or museum personnel was quick to take action either, and even after Cho and Kors hustled offstage the chanting continued for some minutes unchecked.
"Shame on all of you for supporting this industry!" shouted one demonstrator, addressing the crowd.
While one woman began clapping loudly in apparent support, most of the crowd appeared disturbed and some attendees even began yelling back at the demonstrators angrily.
After the demonstrators finally filed out of the auditorium — they appeared to leave largely of their own accord, though there also seemed to be Met employees feebly attempting to usher them out — it took a few moments before someone came to the stage to instruct attendees to stay in their seats while they attempted to "resolve the issue."
"Why can't they just protest outside?" one disgruntled attendee asked her seatmate. "Like, I get it, just bring your little sign and stand on the corner. Why do you have to come in here?"
If PETA had hoped to win empathizers in the audience of Kors fans, its plan seems to have failed: when Kors and Cho returned to the stage, they received a standing ovation from the audience and laughed off the incident by remarking, "Well, fashion's not for sissies!"
Considering that Kors is a former reality TV star and Cho a former television correspondent, it's perhaps unsurprising to see the aplomb with which they applied a "show must go on" attitude to the situation. And considering that audience members had paid $40 a pop to attend the event, it's equally unsurprising that they weren't particularly excited about the prospect of it getting shut down, even temporarily.
Still, if Cho's claim about the number of Facebook Live viewers these kinds of talks garner is accurate — her last talk allegedly had 250,000 viewers — perhaps PETA's actions weren't in vain, after all. Their tactics may have been controversial, but if their aim was to make a memorable, conversation-starting impression, it's sure to have worked.