In memory of André Leon Talley, fashion oracle and completely original man

When he wasn’t in our fashion meetings pulling faces of extreme disapproval or giddy enthusiasm (he had the springy face of a vaudeville comedian), André always seemed to be somewhere exciting, doing something exciting thing. Shooting Madonna in Patrick Kelly’s handkerchief-skirted dress with her fist in a bowl of popcorn; or Iman at the Ritz in Paris in Saint Laurent’s golden brocade Cossack boots; or recently divorced Ivana Trump showing off her newly plump cheeks by the pool in a sunflower yellow Valentino; or in the wilds of Wales, photographing Lady Amanda Harlech on her horse, dressed in a scarlet Ferré frock coat for Dior and made up to kill, a shiny top hat anchored with a veil. “Remember, Amanda – natural!” André bellowed from the touchline: “Above all NATURAL!”

Hand on heart, I must admit that I was jealous of these missions and of the glamorous stratosphere in which André evolved. It was only much later that I understood part of the inner conflict that the flamboyance veiled and that I felt a sadness under the apparent frivolity. André, so widely loved, so kind and so loving, claimed to have never known romantic love.

And it wasn’t until later that I had any inkling of what it meant to have grown up in the Jim Crow South like André had, where he was largely raised by a grandmother. passionate woman who cleaned the latrines at Duke University and dressed impeccably for the church, which would be a fundamental pillar of her grandson’s worldview. It was a world where, as he described in his autobiographies, the years 2003 ALT: A memoir and the most telling, frank and somewhat embittered Chiffon trench coats of 2020, the city’s fashionable black women had to cover their hairstyles with silk scarves before they were allowed to try on hats in the trendy fashion boutique, and where Andre had to avoid making fun of white students in order to buy his cherished copy of vogue at the local campus newsstand. No wonder he wanted to escape into the cosmopolitan world revealed in its brilliant pages.

And he escaped, to Providence, Manhattan and Paris, doing part of a fellowship at Brown University (he read French literature) and dealing with Andy Warhol’s factory switchboard , post in which he communicated with the pillars of the factory. intersection of art, fashion, performance, downtown, downtown and the Gratin of the international coffee company. Later, even as a fashion titan, at the forefront of Parisian haute couture, André could not escape prejudice, but his very existence paved the way, inspiring generations by example.

Comments are closed.