André Leon Talley
How do I love André Leon Talley? Let me count the ways. Is it because he is the only fashion writer today capable of drawing parallels between coming-on-strong Parisian designers Rick Owens and Olivier Theyskens and early 20th Century avant-garde poets? Is it because he so sweetly falls for starlet after starlet in sittings and chats? Because he, like all of my favorite self-invented heroes, imagined himself – through Vogue photos pasted in his teenage bedroom closet —a more cosmopolitan future? Because that future took him from graduate studies in French to “Interview” magazine to a stint at The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? A stint that led to a long, close relationship with that other self-invented queen, Diana Vreeland, taking him up the mastheads to his current tastemaking position as editor-at-large at Vogue? It is “Life with André” (formerly “Stylefax”) that makes Vogue worth anticipating month after month. He is as real as he is brilliantly authoritative, and fashion writing is richer for his life and work.
Image is in this man’s bones. And capturing the image, too, was woven into his early life with his dad, an amateur photographer and influential photo-snapper, and Andy Warhol, an early boss. In Turin in 2002, Talley began the photo project that was to become “A.L.T. 365+,” his new book out on Powerhouse Press with a single snapshot of Miuccia Prada hurrying toward her jet in an ermine coat. Through 365-plus days, hundreds of Kodak disposable cameras, thousands of shots and hours of editing, Talley creates part memoir, part scrapbook, part composite picture of his world. From Diane Von Furstenberg’s pool to Alexander McQueen’s runways, Talley snaps away, capturing in an immediate and honest way images that cumulatively are one-part Andy Warhol’s Polaroids and one-part images from the book by his mentor, Diana Vreeland, “Allure.” Through image and words he profiles friends from Oscar de la Renta to Diana Ross, chronicles experiences like his Sundays at Abyssinian Baptist Church, a performance with the Martha Graham Dancers and dishes about Victoria’s Secret. He tells how, in the early days of the Secret, he was offered $10,000 just to fly to America and sit in the front row during their first fashion show. You will read “A.L.T. 365+” for the names: Kimora Lee, Manolo, Kate, Mica, Karl, Helmut, Gwyneth. But the names are only part of the story. Talley says in the introduction, “My aim is to capture the essence of the superiors of style.” “A.L.T. 365+” does just that through the lens of a man who has had his finger on the pulse of stylemakers for thirty years now, more or less.