How Much Do You Really Know About Andre Leon Talley ????

June 11, 2009

I know I wasn’t the only one wondering what Andre Leon’s role in the fashion industry was. Apparently, he is kind of a big deal. So here is his story. He was born down south in North Carolina and raised by his once sharecropping grandmother Benny Davis. He looked up to her because, even with little or no money, she managed to always dress to the nines for church. He credits her with giving him an understanding of luxury, but that is not where his fashion career got started. Andre went to North Carolina Central University ( an HBCU) and then got a Masters degree in French from Brown University (an ivy).

Andre started his social networking while at Brown U., making friends with the locals at Rhode Island School of Design and traveling with them to New York City on the weekends. Upon finishing his Masters degree, he went to work for Andy Warhol ( seriously). There he said he answered phones, ran the stamp machine to the post office, made $50 a week and had to live at the YMCA ( kinda like a homeless shelter, but for non-completely-broke people). But through this job he was introduced to the world. It was this opportunity that led him to meet Vogue editor Carrie Donovan who subsequently introduced him to Diana Vreeland who gave him a job at the Consume Institute at the Met. In 1983, he was able to join Vogue as a fashion news director. He always told his grandmother that he would one day be a Fashion Editor and he was finally attaining that goal. After Anna Wintour became editor-in-chief of Vogue in 1988 he was given the title of creative director.

For a short 3 years he went to Paris as bureau chief of W but he returned back to Vogue in 1998 to claim the title of Editor-at-Large ( which is kind of like an Editor-in-chief with authoritative power but a lot of influence over the magazine).

I feel compelled to point out that Andre, the 6ft8in fashion guru, is the only African American man that has made it to these heights in the fashion industry. I believe it has a lot to do with his open personality, over the top-ness, and his connections, not to mention he has loved fashion and elegance since way-back-when.

It is not uncommon to see him canoodling with Anna Wintour, Oprah, or even P. Diddy. His versatility has gotten him many friends and a whole lot of press, both good and bad.

Andre hasn’t always made national breaking news, but he has had his fair share of media coverage. One of the most disappointing has to be the ordeal with J.Hud and her Oscar attire. You remember what she wore ( I know you do because you hated it, just like the rest of the world), well Andre was behind that outfit. Here’s the deal: J.Hud was sponsored by Vogue (hence her cover, which was just as unflattering as her Oscar Dress) and Andre insisted that she wear that gold python bolero by Oscar de la Renta. She really didn’t want to so another stylist (Jessica Paster) get her a Cavalli dress, custom made. Well, just like you imagined, Andre went crazy and J.Hud had to put on that catastrophe, but she didn’t have to like it. Apparently, in an interview , Andre said it was collective decision, which I am pretty sure is a cover up.

Honestly, him and his team did her a dis-service. I know it’s a huge honor to be on the cover of Vogue but looking like that, I think I would pass. Technically, Andre doesn’t have control over the pictures in the magazines because of his job description, but come on , he could have protested. Then again, he does have some not-so-flattering pictures of himself almost everywhere.

Andre was also given coverage on his decision to forgo front row seats to fashion shows in 2005 for the more spacious 3rd row seats, saying he is tired of people watching him squeeze into the small spaced seats in the front row. I’m not sure how long he stuck with this little protest, but I have seen him front row and center with Anna at almost every show… well except this one …

a Yigal Azrouel show.

Andre has also had positive coverage, such as when he lost a great deal of weight per Anna Wintour’s request. She has absolutely no problem telling her staff to hit the gym, and apparently, they listen.

He went from this ….

To this….

Andre also spoke at the Art Institute of Philadelphia ( my neck of the woods) in Nov. 2008. He gave the group of enthusiastic students 6 tips.

1. Remember where you came from and how important that is, and that will sustain you.
2. Always be curious and do your research.
3. Travel and find beauty and style where you go.
4. Practice good manners.
5. When you get lucky enough to land an internship or get your first job, do not be offended when someone asks you to make a Starbucks Run.
6. Find a mentor.

Andre Leon has a lot of good thoughts and advice. He is also involved in politics. He takes no shame when demonstrating his support for the First family, wearing the family’s pin every chance he gets. He even wrote the interview of Michelle Obama in Vogue, I am sure it was not hard to get her on the cover with him on her team.

Andre has contributed to the fashion world in more ways than one, some ways are more noticeable than others. He mingles among the elite of fashion, politics and entertainment. He was able to bring him self to his position through hard work and determination. He is a true inspiration because of his dedication and his originality. No matter how many people criticize his outfits they will never top his purse collection, Manolo collection ( size 13’s custom made), or suit collection.

P.S. I have to mention that he said he did not like the Devil Wears Prada because he was portrayed as the little, short, bald guy. He says he believes that Merryl Streep did a great job, but it was not the Vogue he knew, not the real Vogue. Sex and the City however, he liked better because of its positivity, or maybe because he was in it?? IDK…I liked both, didn’t you ?


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