Items from an Icon

By Lauren Villarreal

Fashion legend André Leon Talley’s Birkins, Warhols, and more are up for auction – and online viewing – through Friday.

More than 400 items belonging to the late André Leon Talley, the first Black male Creative Director of American Vogue, will be auctioned by Christie’s this week. Items to be sold in a live auction on Feb. 15 and through an online auction closing on Feb. 16 and 17 include custom haute couture, fine art, jewelry, books, personal correspondence and mementos, including artworks by Andy Warhol, personalized Louis Vuitton luggage sets, and Talley’s signature caftans. Items are currently on view via the Christie’s website and at the auction house’s New York City headquarters, and a selection of items is currently open for bidding.

The opening gallery of the André Leon Talley auction preview at Christie’s.

Talley, who died last January, was considered a pioneer for people of color in the fashion industry. An accomplished and esteemed fashion journalist, he was known for his colorful descriptions of fashion and runway collections.

“André Leon Talley was an icon of fashion, journalism and fashion styling,” said Jenny B. Davis, SMU professor of practice in fashion media. “Not only was he a brilliant man — fluent in French with an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history who wrote three books, including a New York Times bestselling memoir – but he was a true barrier-breaker, rising to the top of the fashion world not just as a Black man, but also as a person from a humble background, which also was almost unheard-of at the time.”

Talley was born in 1948 in Washington, D.C. but was raised in Durham, North Carolina by his grandmother, who worked as a cleaning woman at Duke University.

“His beginnings were the common story of a boy in a small town who reads Vogue and yearns for something bigger and brighter,” Davis said. “What set Talley apart was his amazing style, his regal presence and the fact that he happened to be brilliant.”

After graduating from college with a French literature degree, Talley earned a master’s in French studies from Brown University in 1972 and went to work as an assistant to former Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Talley would go on to become an award-winning fashion journalist and author. He wrote for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, Women’s Wear Daily (where he served as Paris bureau chief), W, The New York Times and Ebony. From 1983 through 2013, he held several positions at Vogue. He styled First Lady Michelle Obama for her first Vogue cover, judged America’s Next Top Model for four seasons and served as a trustee of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“From Studio 54 and Warhol’s Factory to the Obama White House and the Black Lives Matter movement, Talley was in all the right places at all the right times and was always an important and significant contributor,” Davis said. “I think that’s what’s most exciting for me about this auction is the opportunity to interact with things that ALT used and lived with every day – it’s a rare insight into the private collection of a very public person, especially someone who was legendary for their luxurious taste.”

Christie’s, a global auction house based at Rockefeller Center in New York City, is hosting the sale. Proceeds will go to The Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist church in North Carolina, two historically Black churches where Talley belonged and frequently worshipped.

“Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church was Talley’s childhood church and is amongst the first locations he experienced, displayed and observed fashion as a form of expression,” according to the Christie’s website.

All photos by Jenny B. Davis

Lucy Ladis

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