André Leon Talley is Fashion

Photographs (left to right) taken or shared by Arthur Elgort, Richard Harbus, André Leon Talley, and Ike Edeani.

André Leon Talley, age 73, died yesterday night. The grief, and thus the language, this loss inspires in me is inelegant…the polar opposite of Talley’s legacy in the fashion industry. But to not make a note of his passing would be a disservice nonetheless. 

André Leon Talley: Appreciator of handwritten notes. French speaker. Black man. Fashion legend. Vogue creative director, editor, editor-at-large. Barrier breaker. Veteran of Interview, Women’s Wear Daily, W, The New York Times, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Diana Vreeland, and on and on and on. Judge of America’s Next Top Model. Lover of Paris, clean bed sheets, little black dresses, First Ladies, and editing. 

Mr. Talley. 

Mr. Uncomfortable Only in Airports. 

Mr. Best Met Gala Interviews Ever.

Mr. Chiffon Trenches.

In The Gospel According to André (2017), a documentary directed by Kate Novack, Talley sits on his porch in White Plains, New York and reminisces about his grandmother’s porch in North Carolina where relatives regaled him with stories from their lives. 

Talley believed in heaven and he called his porch a sanctuary. So I hope his heaven looks a little like an endless front porch — filled with loved ones and covered in wicker trays of canapés, jellied candy from Paris, and bottles of Sancerre. 

***

This series, Fashion is Function, has the late historian and photographer Bill Cunningham at its core. But running through every part of it is also the spirit of André Leon Talley. His liveliness. His Southern roots. His rigorous, expansive, and adoring knowledge of the industry. His simultaneous love of Uggs and designer capes. His evergreen demand: “Luxury or nothing!”

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