Andre Leon Talley, a fixture in American fashion most well-known for his work at Vogue magazine, is the subject of a new documentary.
“The Gospel According to Andre,” now showing at Regal Tara Cinemas 4 in Atlanta, reveals the man behind the larger-than-life persona which Talley has cultivated over more than 40 years in the fashion industry.
Talley, 68, who also serves as a trustee for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), is one of the first African American men to hold a position of prominence in the global fashion world.
His work has had a great impact on fashion students in Georgia. For two decades, Talley has been a mentor to SCAD fashion students. In 2000, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from SCAD. The award was renamed in his honor the following year. In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from SCAD.
In 2011, Talley guest-curated “High Style,” the inaugural exhibition in the SCAD Museum of Art which features a gallery named in his honor. The exhibition featured iconic designs by a range of big names in fashion including Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Vera Wang and other past recipients of SCAD’s André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award.
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.