From his roots as a young boy in the American South, Talley grew into a near mythical character who drapes his six-foot-plus frame in flowing caftans and is always ready with witty commentary.
He has made scene-stealing appearances in at least fourteen fashion documentaries but this was his first time as the focus of a film. It made him nervous. “I am a very private and shy person, although I come off as a very flamboyant person,” said Talley in the film notes. He described the documentary process as brutal and intrusive, but he was pleased with the result -- a flattering portrait of his life’s achievements.
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Talley was raised by his grandmother in Durham, North Carolina. He compared their lives to Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory,” noting that his grandmother and Southern culture were his foundation.
In the South at the time, the only place where Talley’s life and identity were affirmed was on Sunday at church.
His escape from the cultural restrictions placed on him was Vogue magazine.
In 1974, after earning a master’s degree at Brown University, Talley headed for New York with a letter of recommendation. He landed in the orbit of Diana Vreeland who would become an important mentor. The connection would eventually lead to editorial positions at Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue and more.
Through interviews with childhood friends, teachers and an extensive list of who’s-who in fashion including Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford, viewers learn how Talley overcame obstacles and his own insecurities to rise to the greatest heights of fashion.