A little over a week ago on Sunday, October 29th, I was in the midst of fashion royalty as I witnessed André Leon Talley being interviewed by Audrey Smaltz at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC.
The event complimented the new Ebony Fashion Fair Exhibition entitled “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair”, which covers the 50-year history charity fashion show from 1958-2009. The traveling show featured glamour and redefined the concepts of beauty, style and empowerment of African-Americans. Mrs. Eunice Johnson was the owner and visionary who enhanced the black community with this show, which mission raised funds for local charities. Smaltz was the voice of show for seven years, and is also the founder of The Ground Crew backstage management corporation.
The star of the conversation, Talley, who is originally from Durham, NC came back home to have the conversation which was a treat for the local fashion community. Talley was raised by his grandmother, and began his career assisting Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute and later wrote for Interview Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, before joining Vogue as an editor in 1983. Early in his career, he was also fashion editor of Ebony. During the talk, he shared fascinating and funny behind-the-scenes stories of his days as editor at Ebony. He talked mostly about working with Mrs. Johnson traveling to Europe and New York, and how he also worked with the industry’s top fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld, etc.
Later in the conversation Talley told us a funny story about working with his favorite diva, Mariah Carey, and also with Melania Trump before she became First Lady. As the conversation unfolded his stories became even funnier, and his personality captivated our attention even more.
At the end everyone was allowed to ask questions, and a local inspiring fashion designer whose work was showcased the night before in the NC Art Museum – Ebony Fashion Opening Night Runway Show, wanted advice on how he could get his work noticed more. Talley actually helped him right in front of us which astounded everyone. He insisted the designer actually get his dress from the museum, and bring it to him so he could judge it in front of us just like on the panel of “America’s Next Top Model”. The designer’s work surely impressed Talley, which was one of the highlights of the night.
The night ended with a beautiful scarf which had been donated, being auctioned off to help the museum with future events.
I became a groupie and managed to pick up copy of Talley’s book entitled “Little Black Dress”, which both he and Smaltz autographed. It has been a great addition to my coffee table book collection. If you’re ever able to hear Talley speak, you’re definitely in for a treat. Don’t forget to check out the beautiful Ebony Fashion Fair Exhibition at the NC Musuem of Art entitled “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair”.
The Ultimate Fashionista
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