The Fashion Oracle: Andre Leon Talley

Jocelyn Dingle

Photograph above by Russ Bryant

 

André Leon Talley is the chief priest of high style. Yes, there is his guru’s fashion intuition—sought actively by his colleagues—but equally impressive is how he presents himself to the world. Donning tunics, robes and capes over Charvet shirts and Ralph Lauren dinner suits, he doesn’t get dressed—he gets draped. The elegant matador, the classic aristocrat, the caped crusader, the sartorial monk—whatever the look, he is always 6-foot-7, and he is always grand. Talley and Oscar de la Renta co-curated Joaquin Sorolla and the Glory of Spanish Dress for the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York. On one of the tours of the show, de la Renta stopped to admire Talley, clad elegantly in black: “Look at him … Balenciaga cape ready for the bullfight. There is a misconception about style and being skinny. He’s not skinny, and he has more style than anyone I know.”

Style, intuition and respect to boot, Talley has also won the laurels. A native of Durham, North Carolina, Talley has a degree in French from North Carolina Central University and a Master’s degree in French from Brown University. He moved to New York and worked at Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, where he would answer the phone, “Bonjour!” He landed a job as Diana Vreeland’s assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Vreeland, the editorial maven known for her exquisite eye and way with words, operated on instinct. She saw quality in Talley’s taste level and work ethic. Upon becoming editor-in-chief of Vogue, she took Talley with her. Talley started working at Vogue in 1983 and served as editor-at-large. “It is always a great day working with Anna Wintour,” Talley says. “Vogue is the 
standard bearer, and we, the team at Vogue, strive to maintain the standard bearer.” His expertise has taken him through the offices of WWD, Ebony, W magazine Paris and back to Vogue, where he is currently contributing editor. He also served on the judging panel e America’s Next Top Model for cycles 14 through 17, advised the First Family on fashion, and is a Special Correspondent for Entertainment Tonight (ET) on the red carpet at the Golden Globes and Oscars.