Andre Leon Talley at the Art Institute of Philadelphia
Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley came to Philly for a chat at The Four Seasons hotel with fashion students and patrons of the Art Institute of Philadelphia. When I arrived he was in an incredibly hurry to get his lecture on, and the hosts were very accommodating, even starting a few minutes early, as Andre was in a hurry to get back to NYC. (Behind him were four striking screens, which featured portraits of him by artist and illustrator Denise Fike, a friend of DeJohn’s who had offered to do a portrait for the event, then found so many photos of Talley online that she decided to do several.)
In one of many self-deprecating moments, Talley told the audience, “People think I am all that and a bag of chips, and I am not sure why.” He peppered his speech with anecdotes.
After his hour long talk, he presented the Emil DeJohn scholarships to students Carl Hildenbrand (pictured) and Kevin Coleman.
He enjoyed himself so much he asked to speak for another hour but the room was not available, so he continue to answer questions from the students, reviewing their portfolios and posing for photos for an additional hour in the lobby. (These were the students he said had a flair in style)
Lesson One: “Remember where you came from and how important that is, and that will sustain you,” he said. He was raised in North Carolina by his grandmother, who worked as a maid at nearby Duke University, but always dressed to the nines for church. “She didn’t have a lot, but she had remarkable style,” he added. (L-R Sokanavy Tim, Lizhen Mei, Ling Lin, and Yink Wu)
Lesson Two: “Always be curious and do your research.” While he was working for Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1975, she handed him a dress Claudette Colbert wore in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 screen version of “Cleopatra” and asked him to style the mannequin appropriately. He went to the library and decided that Cleopatra should be sunkissed and got special permission to have his model painted gold. “It matched the dress,” he added. “Mrs. Vreeland loved it.” (Co-Host Professor Emil DeJohn, Dr. William Larkin, President of The Art Institute of Philadelphia, President of Art Institure, Nicole Cashman, co-host of event, Andre Leon Talley)
Lesson Three: Travel and find beauty and style where you go. (Nicole Schmidt and Megan White)
Lesson Five: Fetch coffee if you have to. “When you are lucky enough to land an internship or get your first job, do not be offended when someone asks you to make a Starbucks run,” he noted. “At my first job working for Andy Warhol, I answered phones, ran the stamp machine to the post office, made $50 a week and had to live at the YMCA. But I was literally introduced to the world through that job. Mr. Warhol encouraged me with enthusiasm. He thought everything you did was great.”
Lesson Six: Find a mentor. Vreeland, he said, was his most important. “She taught me everything. Anna Wintour is now my mentor. She is not that person in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ She is like Catherine the Great of Russia. She has kept that magazine on top, raised money for the Met and for the Democratic party.”
Marketa Richardson, Lauren Thorne, Kenvada Kitchen, Anthony Washington
Brandon Davis and Donte Livingston (Their names already say fashion success)
After an hour I left Andre still signing and giving advice to all of the students.