NEW YORK – We stand on the shoulders of giants. André Leon Talley was indeed an influential fashion giant.
While fashion week descended on New York City, memories of the former Vogue creative director, who died Jan. 18, 2022, stood as the tentpole: his impact as an intrepid fashion journalist, advocate and curator with an oversized wealth of knowledge looms large. At a live auction Wednesday, individual pieces went for tens of thousands of dollars and the overall sale totaled $1.3 million, according to Christie’s auction house. Before the items were disbursed, the physical remnants of his memory were on display throughout the week in Midtown Manhattan.
Talley’s memory was accented further on a national stage during the Super Bowl halftime show as Rihanna, who was close to Talley, wore a comforter-sized red puffer coat from Alaïa, to seemingly pay homage to Talley’s Norma Kamali coat of the same hue.
The legend’s career met at the intersection of fashion, art and Black history, beginning his journey curating The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute before working for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine. Later, he held editorial titles at fashion fixtures including WWD, Ebony Magazine, W Magazine and later as the first and only Black creative director and later editor at large.
Notches in his timeline of legendary cultural contributions are evident in the well-worn and loved items collected from his home in White Plains, New York.
An inside look at some of the nearly 400 pieces Christie’s collected reveals the beauty he carefully surrounded himself with in a life punctuated with both glamour and heartache.
Obituary:André Leon Talley, fashion industry icon and former creative director of Vogue, dies at 73
Sale of Talley’s items will benefit his first fashion influence: the church
Though Talley witnessed fashion wonders of the world, including YSL runways in Paris and the inner workings of designer Karl Lagerfeld’s home, his center of fashion was the Black church he attended with his grandmother as a child in North Carolina.
“We marched off into church and I discovered fashion,” Talley said during an episode of PBS’ “Finding your Roots” that aired in April. “Everyone in the church was a queen.”
Talley entered the most exclusive rooms of fashion, but his collections along the way will benefit his beginnings. Auction proceeds will be split among his two centers of faith: His Harlem church home, Abyssinian Baptist, the first African American Baptist church in New York, and his church home where he grew up: Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.
“He loved his church, I think he took all the people that he loved at one point,” close friend and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg told Christie’s in a video for the in-person exhibit, highlighting Talley’s talent and their lasting friendship.
Talley’s collection includes caftans, furniture, Louis Vuitton trunks
The luxurious items in Talley’s collection – which were split among Christie’s, The Savannah College of Art and Design and his estate – included several hand-painted Louis Vuitton trunks, an Hermès bike, and numerous iconic caftans designed by fashion luminaries Tom Ford, Ralph Rucci, Dapper Dan and von Furstenberg. Quotes from the wordsmith and striking photos peppered the Christie’s exhibit, on display in the days before the auction and open to the public to peruse.
Among Talley’s possessions were items he’d collected from his travels to several corners of the world, including caftans from designer Patience Torlowei, who visited the exhibit to pay tribute and whom he met in Nigeria when he visited for the first time with Naomi Campbell during Arise Fashion Week.
There was no fashion house that went uncollected among Talley’s items, which included coats with gilded buttons made by Gianni Versace before his death in 1997, pieces from Chanel, Gucci, couture Dior, Balenciaga and Prada.
Among the luxury was also the most commonplace, including a pair of NAACP T-shirts he wore to the Met Gala with Whoopi Goldberg in 2010 under a Ralph Rucci cape. The simpler clothing items were made more fabulous with bedazzling and customization (his name beaded on the shoulder with black rhinestones) and L.L. Bean bags inscribed with “Talley” and “Vogue.” The pair of custom shirts sold for $1,386 and the pair of canvas bags have a current bid of $2,000.
The exhibit prominently displayed his large collection of Louis Vuitton trunks and bags, including one he carried in the first “Sex and the City” movie. A quote over one of the many clusters reads, “I simply NEED a Louis Vuitton oversized trunk to travel with!” Auction organizers noted they found receipts and scarves within pockets and bags as they curated his belongings.
Pieces from his New York home were grouped together in a salon of sorts, reflecting how his eye for design extended to interiors and replicating exactly how the creations lived within his space.
Multiple extra large Hermès Birkin bags, plate sets from Keith Haring, Interview magazine boxes and Manolo Blahnik shoes showed Talley’s flair and sartorial sentimentality.
‘A generous and loving friend to me’:Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour, more mourn André Leon Talley
Talley’s relationships were reflected in art, photos he collected
Among the physical artifacts of fashion came the visual in the collection obtained by Christie’s. Talley’s possessions included several artworks and photographs, from modern art greats like former boss and friend Andy Warhol and close friends and mentors, including Diana Vreeland and Lagerfeld.
A significant collection of sketches and Lagerfeld-era Chanel, including a Chanel tennis racket still encased in plastic, showcased Talley and Lagerfeld’s yearslong complicated friendship.
Another complex relationship in Talley’s life, with Vogue eEditor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, was on display with a singular photo of her, the only image of the fashion boss that sales curators found in his home. The portrait of Wintour, taken by Annie Leibovitz in 2015, sold for $25,200.
Yet Vreeland, former Vogue editor-in-chief and consultant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, was prominently featured. A large wall with photographs and art depicting her made up a portion of Talley’s collection.
Story Credit: usatoday.com