As the DC fashion conscious community mingled outside “A New Line” studio room at the headquarters of the Washington Post, you could feel the excitement building. We were all waiting for fashion insider André Leon Talley, former Vogue editor, W and WWD fashion editor, author of 3 books and host of a new Sirius XM radio show. Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan was about to interview Talley in what was billed as an interview about his life and career at the intersection of fashion, politics, business and culture. Right from the start, I felt like the rest of the audience was not there and I was sitting in a lounge, listening as they bantered back and forth, such was his charm and wit. Givhan, for her part, masterfully drove the discussion with her thought provoking and fun questions.
As the interview began, Talley discussed his North Carolina roots and the influences of the three most important women in his life: his mother, grandmother and Diana Vreeland. His stories are so rich in color that you could see his grandmother, in her need to have everything spotless (cleanliness is next to godliness), ironing everything including the towels and Talley waxing the floors, including the porch.
You could see the reflection of these rituals and this attention to detail and how it shaped him as he described dressing his father for burial. Like any fashion guru, he stopped off at Bergdorfs and carefully picked out his father’s funeral attire, down to purchasing him a new cologne (His father’s favorite was Polo and while he purchased a new bottle for the casket, he also wanted him to also have a more exclusive one).
He shared his challenges of being bullied and discriminated against in his high school years. Talley shared the evolution of his style as he read Vogue cover to cover twice a month as it was released and how he moved from his neat conservative cashmere sweater in high school (purchased by his grandmother) to wearing purple rouge, tuxedo shirts and tassels moving into his college years.
My favorite piece of advice he imparted was “civility will get you far”. People will remember your manners and your smile…and by the way, it is just good manners to look good!
By the time Givahn wrapped up, the audience did not want to let go. Talley patiently waited for ALL his fans to take a picture with him. Somehow he knew that we hoped that being that close to the man who grew up in rural North Carolina and who went to New York City and who made it in the fashion world would somehow inspire our lives.
I left the interview feeling energized, inspired and totally entertained. I cannot wait to tune into his radio show.