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Andre Leon Talley at every age

This week puts the focus on the passing of the inimitable Andre Leon Talley. The outpouring of grief and remembrance, extolling this larger than life fashion savant, reflects the size of his influence – in other words, it’s been, as he was, operatic! Many of the statements made and questioning of the industry that both nurtured and then broke him (“fashion doesn’t take care of its own”) we’ll look into later down the line. For the arc of his career, like fashion, displayed both the bold visionary and vapid shallowness in dire need of critique.
As he aged and went from a slim figure in his Saville Row suits to the caftan garbed caricature of a stately prince overseeing both Anna and the Met galas (Wintour admitting, “My fashion history is not so great and his was impeccable’), his journey reflects things we need to talk about: the runway might not be real, but it allows for a flamboyant dreaming; aspirations are necessary to joy but not when built by living humans too often exploited unsustainably. But as said, that’s for other places, other articles. Here, we want to celebrate the man himself.

Read:The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir by Andre Leon Talley

Stitching a straight line from childhood dreams to who we become, Andre Leon Talley takes us on a circus (as in Roman where the underlings happily fight to the death in the Colosseum for their overlords) that was his life. Enjoy the extravagance of the ride but take it with a healthy grain of salt for once you get past a truly difficult though extraordinary (thank you very much, Andre’s gran) childhood, it exposes the anarchy and ruthlessness, the glory and ridiculousness of the pampered doyennes of high fashion. It’s delicious.

But if you prefer a quick read, here’s a look back at a New Yorker article 1997 by Hilton Als that captures the fashion seer’s ‘boss-man theater’ in a less flamboyant take.

I don’t tear down. I prefer to build up.

Andre Leon Talley

Watch: The Gospel According to Andre

“Fashion is fleeting. Style remains” And so opens this warm documentary about the fashion giant Andre Leon Tally quoting his fabulous mentor, the fashion luminary Diana Vreeland. Expect stylish to the max.

A paean to a sui generous, probably not to be seen again, original.

I just need green. I need to wake up and see grass and squirrels. I don’t want to see skyscrapers.

Andre Leon Talley

Listen: A New Line: Robin Givhan interviews André Leon Talley

Yes it’s a video, but who needs to watch an interview? Listen while you’re doing tasks around the house. to this interview with Robin Givhan where everything is on display: the early hardscrabble yet formative years (growing up in the Jim Crow South, lovingly raised by his grandmother who cleaned latrines at Duke University during the week while dressing immaculately for Sunday church), to a scholarship at Brown where he read French lit, to Interview Mag during the Warhol years on to WWD and a life few can imagine. He “didn’t do banal” and thus finally landing at Vogue. Fashion –high fashion– was much the better for him.

–kl dunn

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