The Hot Seat: André Leon Talley

Vogue's editor-at-large on The Golden Girls and the importance of living outside of the fashion bubble.

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Illustration: Rob Kelly


When most people think of Vogue, ice-queen-in-chief Anna Wintour comes to mind. And while The September Issue, R.J. Cutler's docudrama about the making of the fashion rag's fall 2007 edition (the largest to date), focuses on tensions between Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington, André Leon Talley steals the show. In only about two minutes of screen time, he quips about "the famine of beauty"—now a catch phrase that has even become a downloadable ring tone. (Take that, Wintour.) TONY lunched with Talley at his new favorite bistro, Benoit, where he complimented our dress (Zara!), talked Golden Girls and insisted that we split the chocolate crme brle "just for a taste!"

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Were you okay with how little screen time you had in The September Issue?
When I saw it, I thought, Hmmmmm. I was fine because R.J. got me about the famine of beauty, he got me on the tennis courts, loaded with my Vuitton cases.

Yes, loaded down with all of your Vuitton accoutrements.
Well, the accoutrements are important. I took up tennis for the same reason I took up horseback riding—part of it is about the habit. Habit is an old word, like a riding habit or a tennis habit. Part of the intrigue was to go to Vuitton and get the tennis racket and the tennis bag, the box for the bottle of water. I don't do anything unless I think about my habit.

What were you thinking this morning when you dressed?
I was thinking very much about Naomi Sims [the first black supermodel], who recently passed away. At her funeral, the priest was wearing beautiful African robes, and I regretted that I didn't wear my own African caftan. So I wore this today—this is a cotton eyelet caftan that Diane von Furstenberg made for me, and silver Afghanistan bracelets, the tiger's claw from Ralph Rucci and the Prada fringe bag. I'm a big proponent of the man-bag.

In your September column for Vogue, you ask Serena Williams how she'd like to be remembered. How would you like people to remember you?
I'd like to be remembered as someone who made a difference in the lives of young people—that I nurtured someone and taught them to pursue their dreams and their careers, to leave a legacy. You cannot live your life in the elitist world of fashion and not step out or you're disconnected. You have to realize that fashion is not the endgame.

So how do you keep that perspective working at Vogue? Aren't the Vogue offices kind of a mecca of skinniness?
You make the world your office. You branch out and give back. The way that people are now shopping and mixing clothes up—Topshop to Prada to Michael Kors—you have to live your life that way. You have to mix the high and the low. The Vogue offices are full of what I call very annnnnnnngular women wearing stilettos, and maybe that's just the consciousness—that people think that they need this look when they work at Vogue. But Grace Coddington does not fit that mold and she's elegant. Look at Michelle Obama, she's the most fashionable woman in America. But she's not a fashion plate.

Well, what do you wear at home? People think that you wear these outlandish outfits always.
No! I wear Juicy Couture shorts, a Ralph Lauren polo shirt and Uggs.

Really? You wear Uggs?
I started wearing Uggs two years ago.

Do you wear Crocs?
What are Crocs?

Those colorful, plastic...what Mario Batali wears.
No! I draw the line at Uggs. It's a cozy shoe. Also, they're only $98. That's the high and low.

So you like fuzzy, furry things?
I like the idea of being warm and secure. That's what home should be. That you have a sense of warmth, security, love, and you love the things around you and surround yourself with beauty.

Do you watch television at home?
I only watch MSNBC for the news. Keith, Rachel and Chris. And reruns of The Golden Girls. It's my favorite show.

That's really funny. What great fashion, too, no?
Oh, great, great. They have a sense of being at home, always wearing different robes and nightgowns. For me it's one of the greatest shows ever. Helmut Lang loves The Golden Girls too. He told me he used to rush home to watch it. It's very uplifting and fresh, it just takes you away from the fashionable world.

The September Issue opens Fri 28.

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