“I don’t tear down. I prefer to build up.”
-Andre Leon Talley
Andre Leon Talley was raised in the Jim Crow South by his grandmother, a maid at Duke University. It was just the two of them, and Talley believes his love of fashion began with love for her and how she dressed for church. “Handbags, gloves chosen carefully. My grandmother had the most beautiful wardrobe of gloves. Calfskin gloves in the winter, you wore beautiful net gloves in summer, you wore beautiful cotton gloves, so all of that was very much ritualistic, and I loved it.”
When Talley was 9 or 10 years old, he found an issue of Vogue at the public library. “"[Vogue] was my gateway to the world outside of Durham," he says. "It was the world of literature, what was happening in the world of art, what was happening in the world of entertainment." He papered his bedroom walls with images torn from the magazine. Outside the home, Talley was bullied for his race, his size, his clothes, and his mannerisms. But he remembers a lot of good things--the unconditional love of his grandma, the lifelong friendships forged in a segregated high school.
Talley went on to study French Literature at Brown University, and moved to New York City in 1974. He worked first for Andy Warhol at the Factory, then with Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour at Vogue, ultimately serving as its creative director and editor-at-large. When asked about working for the magazine he worshipped as a child, Talley says, "I just rose to the occasion. I stood up straight and tall — like a tall, tall sunflower — and I just radiated the light and the beauty of my mind in relationship to the world of fashion."
1. Go see this film!
2. Stand up straight and tall-like a tall, tall sunflower--and radiate...
3. Wear a caftan.
PS: Thank you to NPR for quotes from interviews done with Mr. Talley.