Grace Elizabeth Hackney | Staff Writer
The fashion community has taken a hit in these past few months. The unexpected death of Virgil Abloh in November and Andre Leon Talley in January have left many creatives, especially Black creatives, in the fashion industry speechless.
Andre Leon Talley is someone who I have always admired. He came from humble beginnings and was raised in Durham, North Carolina by his mother and grandmother.
Talley’s approach to couture seems to stem from growing up in a Black southern church. The bright colors, monochromatic coat-skirt combinations and, of course, the flamboyant hats on the Black women in church influenced the iconic editorials we know today.
Talley made cultural statements through his fashion journalism and editorials. Anna Wintour said “he [Talley] could make people feel” when referring to Tally’s writing about fashion. While working at Vogue, Tally used his position to uplift Black designers and models.
One of his most iconic editorials was based on Gone With The Wind, where Naomi Cambell, a Black supermodel, was featured as Scarlett O’Hara.
The parallel of seeing Talley sitting in the front rows of shows at Paris fashion week in the 1970s and seeing Black creatives and rappers in the front row of the last Virgil Abloh Louis Vuitton runway show is fantastic to me. There was a point when Talley was one of the few Black people with a known influence in fashion at a runway show in Paris.
It is still rare to see Black people in important positions in the fashion industry. Even when working at Vogue, Talley still faced bigotry from others.
For Abloh to be the head of one of the most iconic fashion houses and build his luxury brand is a massive step for Black people in the fashion industry. His death hurt so many young Black designers since he was one of the most popular Black designers who achieved mainstream fame in the predominantly affluent and white space that we know as high fashion.
In 2022, it is normal to see Black people who are influential in hip hop in the front rows of high fashion runway shows. To think there was a time when the only people who you saw in the front seats of these shows were middle-aged white people. Who are the most fashionable people you know? Are they middle-aged white people? Right.
Elements of Black culture and street style have always existed within high fashion, yet the people who pioneered these styles seldom have a seat at the table. Talley made room for Black creatives. Talley made room for the Laquan Smiths so that Virgil Abloh could be the designer many admire.
“You don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black, and I’m proud,’ you just do it, and it impacts the culture,” he said in the documentary The Gospel According to Andre.
That is precisely what Talley did.
Thank you, Andre. Thank you for your work. Thank you for inspiring Black creatives all across the world.