André Leon Talley shares his journey navigating the harsh reality of the fashion industry

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Following the release of André Leon Talley’s second memoir, “The Chiffon Trenches,” Talley is using his platform to spread an important message: forgiveness. 

“I think forgiveness is always about healing,” Talley said. “I think that Black people often forgive things that happened to them. I don’t think you can survive in the world if you are Black and don’t forgive.” 

His latest memoir tackles many difficult aspects of his life, including the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, the cutthroat nature of the fashion industry, the timeline of his fashion career that began in New York City during the 1970s and racism within the fashion industry, which he says often goes ignored. 

“I won a lot of battles, but I have a lot of scars and a lot of wounds … so I just felt it was important to be honest, to just show my vulnerability, and that’s what I think people have responded to in this memoir,” Talley said. “Because I did not hide anything, I did not want to hide anything.” 

The fashion industry has long been criticized for both its blatant and subtle forms of racism. Anna Wintour, long time editor-in-chief of Vogue, recently apologized and recognized that the magazine has not given enough space to Black editors, writers, photographers and other team members. In the wake of the surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the magazine released an issue titled “Hope” that featured 316 pages of primarily Black models and photographers. 

“It was a great moment to see Lizzo on the cover in 2020,” Talley said, “But I don’t think that she could have come on that cover before 2020.” 

Although many critics claim that Wintour’s apology was delivered too late, going along with his theme of forgiveness, Talley said he is willing to stop casting blame and move forward. 

“Black people have always had to fight … Lizzo represented the continuation of the struggle to survive, to be recognized and to excel no matter who you are as a person of color.” 

Though Talley’s tenure at Vogue began in 1983, his love for the magazine and for fashion started at a much younger age. He shared the story of when he laid his hands on his first issue of Vogue at his local library, and how this moment was life-changing for him. 

“The pages of Vogue became this world, this encyclopedia, of culture, style, internationalism,” Talley said. “Not only the glamour of the image, but the glamour of the words written under the captions.” 

Talley referred to the magazine as his own “secret garden” that allowed him to escape the harsh reality of his childhood and the many difficulties he faced. From there, he worked his way up, slowly but surely, and has become one of the most well-known names in fashion.  

Talley’s life story is one of resilience in the wake of adversity. He has confronted racism in the fashion industry head-on and will serve as a role model for many generations to come. 

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