“A Seat at the Table” is hard to come by when it comes to entering historically competitive creative spaces with a subjectively strict infrastructure. This is definitely the case for the world of fashion and its historic media publications. It can be debated that it is equally as difficult to achieve such success as a Black person in these spaces. What happens when you’ve rightfully acquired said seat at one of the top fashion publications in the world and suddenly it’s taken away for subjectively frivolous reasons?
In the case of former Vogue Editor-at-Large André Leon Talley, he knows this reality far too well and painfully so.
Last week, Daily News UK rocked the fashion world with shared excerpts from Talley’s upcoming memoir “The Chiffon Trenches” which included a detailed description of his falling out with American Vogue, Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour. In one of the excerpts, Talley claimed, “She is immune to anyone other than the powerful and famous people who populate the pages of Vogue. She has mercilessly made her best friends people who are the highest in their chosen fields.” Talley was allegedly “frozen out” of the American Vogue sphere due to being “too old, too overweight, and too uncool” for Wintour’s liking. There was an immense level of shock and disappointment that was felt in learning that this former fashion power-duo ultimately perished in an impersonal, gut-wrenching manner. However, it’s important to note that Talley’s transparency on this particular ending in his life is not only valid but is absolutely warranted.
Personally speaking, I believe that it does not matter how many doors that have been opened for André Leon Talley in regards to the fashion industry because prominent Black fashion figures such as him should be treated like precious gems no matter what. “Censorship” is typically utilized in situations where there is a level of protection that needs to be implemented or a certain status quo that needs to be upheld. In the case of Talley, it serves him zero
Black veterans in the fashion industry are sadly a rare occurrence in the industry. They should be able to come forward with their testimonies of triumph and loss if that is what they choose to share. The hardest lessons are taught when one is in a space of alleged privilege and at any moment, it can all be taken away in a selfish manner.
André Leon Talley’s testimony is meant to be heard in spite of naysayers who disagree with his transparency. Talley’s life story alone as a Black man in this commanding world is one that should never be forgotten. He grew up in the South during the Jim Crow era and was raised by his hard-working Grandmother who worked as a cleaning lady at Duke University. Talley went on to graduate from North Carolina Central University (an HBCU) and triumphantly won a scholarship to Brown University for his Master’s Education. He went on to establish his path in the fashion universe in a way that was commanding, unapologetic, and legendary to say the least.
Talley earned his stature in the fashion industry from being a true connoisseur of fashion history and that can never be debated. It is incredibly disheartening to learn that someone with this level of knowledge, history, and honor for fashion could easily be placed to the side due to ageism politics or fatphobic rhetoric. Talley was also painfully underpaid for his brilliant pop-culture based podcast with American Vogue. A loss of this magnitude for André Leon Talley is ultimately a loss for the culture at large.
There should always be a level of respect that should be given to the gatekeepers that paved the way for the new generations to come. They should never be “thrown to the side” solely for the essence of “newness.” André Leon Talley is a pioneer to the Journalism world and no weapon that is used against him shall prosper.
Follow MEFeater on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for more updates.