André Leon Talley knew his place in fashion’s cannon. He knew his history, his references were minute, and he was an enthusiastic student until the end. What elegance he possessed to stake his claim so firmly. What strength. The wit. The delivery!
And what a storyteller he was. How beautiful, how fitting, that the story to be told with his Christie’s auction today will benefit the places where he always had an open door, Abyssinian Baptist Church, where his homegoing was held in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, and the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, both Black-majority churches. Talley, who frequently extolled the community-minded virtues of Black churches, attended both throughout his life.
Because as much as André loved fashion, he loved his spiritual home of the black church even more, where the unspoken, but heavily implied, moral code is to dress well. More than a place- its an event, a vibe, a celebration of pomp and soul stirring music that was for a long time the only place where our dignity could not be touched or messed with. Until the day he died, he considered the most important event to get dressed for to be Sunday service at church. Put on your Sunday best and sing some gospel music, darling!
Like stated before, black people belong everywhere. Though physically largesse in stature, André also took up space with his oversized grandeur and elegant flourishes. He had dreams of escaping the Jim Crow south, and he did. All the way to the hallowed halls of Christie’s. His very existence at Vogue was groundbreaking. And he knew it, recognized the significance, and let the importance of that inform and dictate his every move.
André once said, “we all have an inner you, a destiny, who we were meant to be”. And he was here, to show us that a tall, black, gay man from the Jim Crow south could one day kick down the doors of Vogue and the fashion world at large, and take up all the fabulous space he wanted to. In André’s honor, when given a choice, dress in your Sunday best, turn the gospel up, and always, always, use your God given gifts.