28 Days of Black Fashion History: André Leon Talley
Updated: 5 hours ago
It's September, 2018. André Leon Talley writes an opinion piece for The Washington Post documenting the historic Vogue issue on which Beyoncé graced the cover, shot by the equally talented Black photographer, Tyler Mitchell. He writes of how the cover is an homage to Black women who could never dream of themselves on the cover of Vogue. But in that same article he also speaks of the significance of the white sheet behind Beyoncé, its suggestion of bygone Black women who washed and folded the sheets, delivering them to their masters in the big, white house; the ancestry of slavery. In his words, “the sheet symbolizes so many black women who struggled until they became towers of their community, of their family — but rarely of the world.” (The Washington Post, September 2018)
CREDIT- CINDY ORD/GETTY
This article is no departure for the beloved, larger than life, fiercely loyal, outspoken, trailblazing icon and legendary fashion journalist André Leon Talley. He brought a fresh perspective to fashion, one that celebrated diversity without screaming and one that offered cultural knowledge that could not be tapped into by “the old guard.” “I sounded no bullhorn over diversity but nurtured it where I could.” (The Washington Post, September 2018)
Talley with fellow Vogue editors in 2008
Photo- Andrew H. Walker_Getty Images
His legacy is so expansive, it is difficult to cover (and do it justice) in a single blog post. (I mean, the man has 2 memoirs AND a biopic), but I will try to make the short version as thorough as possible, highlighting his contributions to the culture.
Born in 1948 in Washington, D.C., he was raised by his grandmother in North Carolina. Although quiet and obedient as a child, he always knew that there was more to life than the town of Durham, and he intended to experience it. He graduated from North Carolina Central University and received a Master’s degree from Brown University. His master’s thesis about Black women in 19th century French art and literature was picked up by wealthy white students at Rhode Island School of Design, which helped parlay him into an unpaid internship at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Diane Vreeland. He would eventually move on to work at Andy Warhol’s Interview, then move to Paris (as the bureau chief of WWD) and eventually to American Vogue.