Who knew in the fall of 1949 one of the most iconic style influencers of the century would be born in Washington D.C. Andre’ Leon Talley – currently serves as editor-at-large for Vouge. Andre’ is a house-hold name in the fashion industry, and a living example of Black Queer History.
In his youth, Talley was sent to bible-belt, North Carolina, to be raised by his Grand-Mother Bennie Davis. To whom he attributes his love of fashion, style, and luxury. He states,
“You saw beautiful images of women, beautiful church hats and gloves. These were not people of great means and wealth, but they had the most wonderful style—especially on Sundays.”
After receiving an undergraduate degree in French Literature in 1970 from North Carolina Central University, he received a scholarship to Brown University , where he obtained his M.A in French Studies in 1973. He was all set to actually begin work as a French teacher, but fate had other plans.
In 1974, Talley moved to New York to work for $50’s a week for legendary Andy Warhol’s factory. A decision that would change his life forever. From there he was in the mix with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Bianca Jagger, and eventually he would become extremely close with Diana Vreeland (The Editor-In Chief of Vouge at the time). Vreeland was immediately taken with Talley’s work-ethic and obvious sense of style of grace and he quickly worked his way up in professional fashion circles. He recounts this as not being the easiest task, as a young Black male, in what was then a white woman’s world.
“I just kept going. I once overheard someone say, ‘Why is Karl Lagerfeld writing to him? What common interest could they have?’ I met Karl Lagerfeld through Andy Warhol in 1975. We became friends and still are.” – Andre Leon Talley
And yet, he was not phased, nor did he stop. As Vreeland’s protege’, he went on to work for various publications such as Interview, The New York Times, until finally he returned to Vouge in 1988 as it’s Creative Director, a title tremendously earned. With that power and agency, he helped influence tons of designers to use more Black models, pushed the magazine to promote many up and coming fashion designers including Stephen Burrows, and Patrick Robinson. He quotes from an interview with Prada –
“Sometimes when I sit and watch a fashion show I get totally wrapped up in what is in front of me, in the fantasy of it and what it might mean to the person who will be wearing the clothes. Then the show’s over, and I realize there has not been one person of color on the runway!”
To this day, Andre’ is an industry staple. He continues to influence, and inspire the fashion industry and creatives everywhere.
Push through Mother Talley, we commend your work and efforts!
Sources Talley, André Leon, A.L.T.: A Memoir, Villard Books, 2003.