Working with André Leon Talley wasn’t easy but it was great

When, in Paris, you meet a kind of person,” wrote Honoré de Balzac, “that is not a mere man, it is a sight! ” André Leon Talley, with her diploma in French from Brown University, would understand.

I first saw André in person in the late ’90s when I sat in a TV production van parked outside a tent at Bryant Park, the site of New York Fashion Week. I am an executive producer of the live, nightly telecast of the runway shows. One of the features of our program is the broadcast of the day’s programs with live expert commentary. (It’s like commenting on colors in a ball game but with much better costumes and much more engaging participants.)

When André walked into our makeshift studio, dressed in some impromptu sweatpants and large black glasses, he reversed the chair he was asked to sit in, leaning forward, outstretched. endlessly long legs on either side of the seat back, and go on to do dozens of minutes of beautiful runway analysis.

Anyone can see that this man is a star.

My priority for the next Fashion Week is simple: Get André Leon Talley!

André agreed to make regular appearances if we could arrange to bestow his title on his beloved Ebenezer Baptist Church in Harlem, which André attends regularly, both out of religious devotion. and his fondness for women’s well-dressed Sunday mornings. André deeply respects the profound human urge to look one’s best. After all, fashion is a social business: people express themselves in front of friends as well as strangers. So why not look good? André could say it was a very civilized thing.

Working with André has never been easy. The man has strong ideas. And he was able to briefly terrorize me and our very tough director when he sent us running wild to execute one of his whims. But if you respect him and his passion, you really don’t mind. It really makes us laugh.

When Bob Costas talks about baseball, it seems like the most important thing in the world. That’s why Costas is such a big broadcaster. And when André talks about fashion, it seems to be the most important thing in the world. And for him, perhaps.

André can watch a fashion show in the morning, then visit our studio and comment in detail on every outfit designed by one of his favorite designers — Oscar, Carolina , Karl or Ralph—without referring to any notes. He seems to instantly memorize every “look” and understand references to previous designers. Thus, a contemporary designer’s women’s suit might inspire a brief caption of a Dior or Balenciaga outfit that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wore. The man is a true scholar of fashion. (The amazing images of André in action were captured in producer Elizabeth Hummer’s Emmy-nominated half-hour TV special, Vogue’s Talley.

Sometimes, after André had finished one of his commentary, he would slowly walk out of the set and ask, “What do the ordinary people in the control room think?” I am always touched by this. He is an extremely sensitive man, an artist, and a vulnerable man beneath the well-fortified armor of flesh and the arrogance he shields himself with.

Of course, he was ridiculed by some, and he eventually left Vogue with a certain amount of hurt feelings. But I hope André understands that, to appeal to Balzac again, “In society, nobody cares about suffering or unhappiness, everything is just conversation.”

During a Fashion Week, New York Post took a picture of André sitting next to Anna Wintour and her daughter in the front row during a Marc Jacobs runway show. André is wearing one of her custom suits, sewn by Prince Charles’ Saville Row tailor. But the button on his pants was gone. (Why luxury clothes have button flies has always been a mystery to me, but I digress.) Post running images day after day with increasingly annoying captions. It was absurd and cruel, but André took it to heart. After a few days of publicly mocking a great man, I found André sitting in our green room with tears in my eyes. It was a rare occasion to have a sincere exchange with this very protective man. He told me that his biggest fear was that he would die alone. He asked my wife and I if we regret not having children, and I felt that perhaps he himself would have liked to be a father.

Young artists express their love for André, who has inspired so many of them to pursue careers in fashion, or simply to express themselves through their clothes. These are actually his children.

I thought about that conversation after I watched it The Gospel According to André Leon Talley, Kate Novack’s touching documentary, alongside interviews with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Diane Von Furstenberg and Michelle Obama, follows visits to André’s childhood home in North Carolina, conversations with childhood friends and in memory of André’s beloved grandmother, who worked as a dormitory cleaner at Duke University. The audience at the Tribeca Film Festival where I watched the film was filled with young, passionate fans of André, many of whom dressed up – “dress the dog” to borrow a phrase from André. Then André came on stage, even bigger than I remember him, and there was something heartbreaking in the way he moved so hard, burdened with all that flesh.

Young artists express their love for André, who has inspired so many of them to pursue careers in fashion, or simply to express themselves through their clothes. These are actually his children. And that night I knew that André would never die alone because he would always be surrounded by the love of those who admired him. I hope he somehow senses their presence, even when they’re not in the room.

For the André admirers among us, the world feels less interesting without him. Working with André Leon Talley wasn’t easy but it was great


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