“The Chiffon Trenches” is a chronicle of the remarkable life of trailblazing fashion icon Andre Leon Talley as he breaks new ground in an industry rife with racism, prejudice and bias. This is an honest, candid memoir full of vulnerable and authentic reflections on some of the most recent historic fashion moments of the twentieth century. A diorama of fashion royalty populates this intelligent memoir by an inimitable legend.”
…Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation
If you follow pop culture in any form or fashion, then you have probably seen the large, imposing Black man on the scene—or red carpet—wearing something designed just for him by one of the haute couture designers of the moment. Now he has laid bare his storied career for all to see.
From the pages of Vogue to the runways of Paris, “The Chiffon Trenches” (Ballantine Books; $28.00) by legendary style icon Andre Leon Talley is a deeply revealing memoir that captures the fashion world from the inside out, in its most glamorous and most cutthroat moments.
During Talley’s first magazine job, alongside Andy Warhol at Interview, a fateful meeting with Karl Lagerfeld began a decades-long friendship with the enigmatic, often caustic designer. Propelled into the upper echelons by his knowledge and adoration of fashion, Talley moved to Paris as Bureau Chief of John Fairchild’s Women’s Wear Daily, befriending fashion’s most important designers (Halston, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar De La Renta).
But as Talley made friends, he also made enemies. A racist encounter with a member of the house of Yves Saint Laurent sent him back to New York (following a brief stint at Ebony Magazine with Eunice Johnson and the Ebony Fashion Fair) and into the offices of Vogue under Grace Mirabella.
There he eventually became creative director, developing an unlikely, but devoted, friendship with Anna Wintour. As she rose to the top of Vogue’s masthead, Andre also ascended, soon becoming the most influential man in fashion.
“The Chiffon Trenches” offers a candid look at the “who’s who” of the last 50 years of fashion. At once ruthless and empathetic, this engaging memoir tells with raw honesty the story of how Talley not only survived the brutal style landscapes but thrived—despite racism, rumors, and all the other challenges of this notoriously cutthroat industry—to become one of the most renowned voices and faces of fashion.
Also woven through the book are Talley’s personal struggles through the decades, along with intimate stories of those he has turned to for inspiration (Diana Vreeland, Diane Von Furstenberg and Lee Radziwill, to name a few), and of course his Southern roots and ongoing faith, which have guided him since childhood.
The result is a highly compelling read that captures the essence of a world few of us will ever have real access to, but one that we all want to know oh so much more about.