Things We Learned from André Leon Talley’s Giant Interview in Vanity Fair

For Vanity Fair’s September issue, André Leon Talley was interviewed by Vanessa Grigoriadis, she of that revelatory Karl Lagerfeld profile for New York magazine in 2006. In an empty Balducci’s market near his home in White Plains, 30-some miles north of New York City, the contributing editor of Vogue (where he’s been for 30 years, in some capacity) and new editor-at-large of Numèro Russia regaled her with amusing, if sometimes morose, stories and moments from his phenomenal life and unlikely career.

Later, the two traveled to Savannah, Georgia, where he gave a lifetime achievement award to Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa on behalf of the College of Art and Design. Throughout the ensuing highs and lows, the focus was kept mostly on his unique position as a fashion eyewitness who remembers everything, or whose ability to make it up is so good — on a par with Diana Vreeland, his mentor — that it almost doesn’t matter. These tidbits stood out…

  • He wear “African robes, caftans and capes.” He has 35 designer capes.

  • André has read John Fairchild’s couture-based memoir The Fashionable Savages so many times he’s “practically memorized it.”

  • After college (he has a masters from Brown, in French), he had a job answering phones at the uptown A.S.C.P.A., but remembers being distraught by the sound of dogs being euthanized.

  • He is not as thin as he once was and isn’t fond of the subject of weight.

  • Improbably, he’s friends with NY Times Op-Ed writer Maureen Dowd, whom he once jokingly called “a road-show Rita Hayworth” for wearing a slightly wrinkled dress one evening.

  • He has never seen Anna Wintour’s bob pulled back, not even at tennis.

  • An uncredited Vogue colleague had this to say: “Anna and André are best buddies…He advises her on what to wear. They go to fittings together. This is the only man who could see Anna in her underwear.”

  • He never takes notes from his front-row perch at fashion shows.

  • He sends a personal, typed note to designers after each show, saying whether he liked it or not, and why. Miuccia Prada gets them; she says, “[His] point of view is very honest, interesting and articulate.”

  • André thinks, as he told Francisco Costa in Savannah, that a couple should stay in separate bedrooms. “It’s very un-chic in Europe to stay in the same bedroom.”

  • He’s the godfather to six children. He visited one of them in a Connecticut boarding school wearing a floor-length Juicy Couture denim jacket with the words “Great American Dream” bedazzled on the back.

  • He says he’s “had very gay experiences,” but rejects the gay label.

Visit Vanity Fair to read the first part of the interview

Leave a comment