André Leon Talley, a fashion landmark, whose judgment sought by top designers arrived to Neiman Marcus San Francisco for fashion chat and was welcomed with grand applause. Andre is a contributing editor of Vogue, Author of Valentino: At the Emperor's Table and a host of Vogue's Podcast. He's been in fashion for more than 25 years. Talley’s voice, with its Pavarotti-like range and unique timbre was passionate as we talked about women who inspired him, his work with Anna Wintour, his opinion on Fashion and Technology and more.
Joliegazette: Always wanted to ask you about capes? What is the history behind these fabulous capes?
Andre Leon Talley: I started wearing them in college in undergraduate school. I went to vintage store and I bought one and made it my signature. I always wanted to dress in dramatic way and one of the great inspirations in my life is Lady Ottoline Morell. She was very tall, aristocrat, who knew all the great literary writers and artists and she was very dramatic. She inspired me greatly. Lady Ottoline Morell to me is James Brown.
Joliegazette: You volunteered for Diane Vreeland and you worked for Anna Wintour. Describe your experience working with both of these powerfull women.
Andre Leon Talley: Well I've learned from two great masters Diane Vreeland and June Fairchild who died recently last year. Those were masters. I've learned to look at the clothes from inside out. Diane Vreeland is a great teacher and mentor and June Fairchild taught me how to write about clothes, how to analyze and review clothes in collections. And what would make a great review of the collection is not just describing look number five, a red coat with gold buttons. The look number five would be a red coat inspired by designer's trip to Russia or having seen some great English movie. You have to always bring in the narrative and the emotional response of something of a garmet, as well as give it a context. Those two women taught me the greatest things I know about fashion. About a skill of being in fashion and having a great base to public. The romanticism with clothes I really learned from Diane Vreeland. My grandmother , Bennie Davis, was a maid, a domestic maid for fifty years. She didn't have a lot of money, but we were not poor. She saved her money and she bought beautiful clothes of great quality and great shoes and she kept them all her life. She had the black suit she bought in 1940s and she was wearing it until the day she died. It was a very beautiful suit, copied off of The Dutchess of Windsor suit My grandmother and Mrs. Vreeland had similar ways of appreciating luxury because they both believed in the importance of its most essential underpinning: polish.
Joliegazette: I've read that your grandmother had great hair
Andre Leon Talley: Yes, she had beautiful grey hair.
Joliegazette: Did you leave Vogue?
Andre Leon Talley: I didn't leave Vogue. I am still at Vogue and I am a host of Vogue's podcast. I am considered very much a member of the Vogue family. Grace Coddington almost left Vogue, but she still works at Vogue. Anna Wintour is a very good friend, Tonne Goodman is a very good friend, Sally Singer, all Vogue people are very much a big part of my life today. Once a week I am at Vogue doing Vogue podcast, so tune in.
Joliegazette: I will definitely tune in to listen. Who is your dream guest?
Andre Leon Talley: Rihanna.
Joliegazette: How does Vogue go by choosing who it will put on the cover?
Andre Leon Talley: We acknowledge achievements and talents. Vogue embraces and acknowledges the best! Vogue is at the top of their game. Recently they featured Oscar winner Lupita N'yonog, followed by Kendall Jenner. The cover choices story always exemplify the best of the cultural moment. Vogue acknowledges excelence!
Joliegazette: What did you think of Rihanna's latest collection in Paris?
Andre Leon Talley: Amazing! At the gym! I loved it. Rihanna is a Force! I loved her photograph in Crash. In the golden age of cultural icons Marlene Dietrich would be Rihanna today and Rihanna would be Marlene Dietrich.
Joliegazette: What do you think of fashion and technology? And how fashion is changing due to technology?
Andre Leon Talley: I love it. I work with Will. I. Am. He has an extraordinary product. He is developing a wearable technology jacket for Gucci which will have a smartsleeve. Digital world is important for this age, for young people
Joliegazette: Tell us your opinion on Fashion Shows today.
Andre Leon Talley: Very extraordinarily important for getting the presentation of designer's point of you. For Fashion it's extremely important.
Joliegazette: Do you think fashion shows are less about fashion today and more about self promotion ?
Andre Leon Talley: No, I think it's still is about fashion.
Joliegazette: What about Fashion bloggers?
Andrie Leon Talley: I don't follow bloggers. I have no comment on that.
Joliegazette: And your thoughts on San Francisco?
Andre Leon Talley: San Francisco is the most elegant city in America, after Boston. The enthuthiasm of the people we received in Neiman Marcus today was very, very warm and unique. Thank you!
Photos by Amaris Granado for Joliegazette
Text Juliet Belkin