Andre Talley

Talley’s Chiffon Trenches

I finally read Andre Leon Talley’s book The Chiffon Trenches, the fashion authority’s memoir published in 2020.  The Brown University graduate shows his gift of flowery as well melodramatic language describing his pioneering life in the fabulous  stratosphere.  However, therein lies the problem with the book.  The author weaving the tales got tangled in the plush silk web.  

From humbled beginnings in North Carolina to the corridors of fashion power at Vogue and Conde Nast, Talley’s journey was remarkable.  An assignment with editor matrix Diana Vreeland opened the doors of influence and access.

Stints at Interview, W Magazine and Ebony, Paris then New York placed the Washington D.C. born journalist in a spoke of the fashion universe.

Into the Bubble

The expression goes “The devil does not come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns.  He or she comes as everything you wished for.” It would be Anna Wintour who placed the journalist as close to the fashion’s center- hub as he would get.  The British born uber magazine head made Talley a true member of the style gentry class.  With a prestigious name plate, suddenly the first African American fashion Editor at Large not only had new friends, old enemies sought truces. 

Working at Conde Nast came across as a gilded bubble, flying here and there, front role seats, endless name dropping, believing the gold leaf fiction would prove the influential style consultant to the star’s eventual downfall.  Everyone has an expiration date. Mr. Talley’s beliefs in personal relationships in a transactional world came across as misguided, naïve, silly. Given his skill and knowledge, how did Andre fail to understand this?

The lack of introspection, suddenly chasing identity in a shallow way bothered me while reading his book. At the time of his writing, the world was gripped by BLM.  Perhaps this was chasing the headlines of the day.  I cannot remember Talley championing other African American Writers, designers, stylists until it was safe. Being friends with Naomi Campbell, Diana Ross and Michelle Obama was hardly risking taking.

His Job?

The confusing part of the book, what exactly did Talley do at Vogue? The details of having to pay for his driver when expenses were cut, laid bare, while the particulars of his job seemed vague, a column or a VIP styling every full moon. What were his real responsibilities?  After his unceremonious 2018 dismissal from the fashion Bible, the once well-heeled connected style purveyor got lost, forgotten, a relic who did not keep up with the times.  Seeing the frequently wearing caftain wearer on the 2020 Tamron Hall Show, I saw a man who came across as a child who lost his mother at the shopping mall.  The issues with Wintour still ran deep. 

Andre Leon Talley passed away in 2022 alone, struggling with legal and financial issues.  The 73-year-old left a bigger than life legacy that sadly faded at the end.