113 minutes with … André Leon Talley
113 minutes with … André Leon Talley
From his living room in White Plains, the fashion writer on his new memoir and old friends.
ALEX JUNG

ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY’S LIFE in quarantine is not so different from the time before. He loves his house in White Plains and spends the days reading and watching Netflix in his UGG boots and trademark caftans in various shades of black and burgundy and olive green. Before our phone call, he warmed up a shepherd’s pie brought to him the night before by Alexandra Kotur, the creative director of Town & Country, which he ate on a “beautiful plate by Ralph Lauren.” He telephones regularly: Sandra Bernhard every day, Carolina Herrera every other, and Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, whom he calls his “missing sister.” He refers to everyone by their full name each time so there can be no confusion. He would love to hear from Anna Wintour, but she does not call.

“This is what matters in life: how you impact people, how people are impressed by you,” he says, his voice still mellifluous with grandeur. “Did you read the letter from Ralph Lauren in the back of my book?” No matter, he’ll read it aloud. His memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, is a fiercely treasured shoebox of memories he has collected throughout his career: summering at Karl Lagerfeld’s villa in Biarritz, dancing with Diana Ross at Studio 54, attending Marc Jacobs’s wedding. It is a reminder of his own once-lofty perch at the pinnacle of high fashion as the creative director of U.S. Vogue—the first and only black person to occupy that job. “As I saw it, I was meant to be by Anna Wintour at all times and encourage her visions,” he writes. “I’m not belittling myself to say my strength was in my ability to be beside a small, great, powerful white woman and encourage her vision.”

Tabloids have been eager for chum, calling the book “catty” and an “extended rant” against his former boss. The people have eaten it up. To Wendy Williams, who described him as spineless, he says, “She no longer exists for me as a friend. She tears down people to build herself up.” To Ralph Rucci’s Instagram post applauding Talley’s bravery and calling Wintour satanic: It’s “a screed. S-C-R-E-E-D-I-S-H. With 12 exclamation points.” He wants the entire fashion world to know that, whatever ensuing drama the book may cause, he’s still Team Anna.

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May 11–24, 2020