The famed designer reflects on her decades-long friendship with Talley, his iconic personal style and lasting influence on fashion
For more than 45 years, Diane von Furstenberg remained one of André Leon Talley’s closest friends and confidantes. Two luminaries in the world of fashion, the duo encouraged and inspired one another, bound by a mutual appreciation for luxury, elegance and empowering beauty. Ahead of a series of sales of Talley’s personal collection that runs through 16 February, Christie’s caught up with von Furstenberg to discuss her enduring relationship with Talley and the bold sense of style that made him a household name.
Can you tell us how you know André Leon Talley?
Diane von Furstenburg: André is — I have a problem saying was — one of my best friends. I have known him since the early 70s. He had just arrived in New York. The first memory I have of him, I was giving a party. For some reason I went down to the lobby and there was this tall person wearing a little orange satin cape and taking pictures of people coming in. At the time, I think André was working for Interview. I couldn't say that I invited him upstairs, but I know that's my first image of him. Sometime after that we became very, very good friends.
Over the years I have travelled with him everywhere. We went to Texas together, we went to Savannah together, we went to San Francisco together. So many places. But the best souvenir we had together is when I was invited to the inauguration of President Obama and he came with me. It was a very special moment.
We’ve had over 45 years together. My friendship with him was real. We loved each other, we respected each other, we admired each other. Sometimes we would irritate each other. You had to work to be his friend, but it was really worth it.
How would you describe André?
DVF: André was bigger than life in every way. In size, in voice, in influence. When he walked into a room, you couldn't miss him. He was unbelievably kind and had a huge heart. He read a lot. He wrote beautifully. He helped a lot of people, touched a lot of people. He was truly magnificent.
Above all, he loved beauty. He was absolutely a pupil of beauty who would do anything to amplify beauty and grace and class.
How did he influence the fashion world?
DVF: André discovered so many designers. He spent time with designers as a mentor, he wrote about fashion. He also opened the door for many Black people in fashion and was a role model for so many people. His imprint on fashion in the last 50 years has been unbelievably big.
What do you think are some of his most memorable fashion moments?
DVF: Well, his most famous fashionable moment happened on a Friday night at the restaurant Maxim’s in Paris. At the time, if you went to Maxim’s for dinner on a Friday, the men would have to wear a tuxedo. I think André had a shoot or something beforehand, and he didn't have time to change. But in any case, he showed up in a beautiful white shirt, a bow tie and a beautiful black cashmere robe.
It was a furore. It was a scandal. It was definitely noticed. But because he was so elegant, he could do anything, and I think that was his first big fashion moment. Really everything that André wore became royal.
‘He was absolutely a pupil of beauty who would do anything to amplify beauty and grace and class’ — Diane von Furstenberg
How would you describe his personal style?
DVF: Well, as I said, he was bigger than life. He loved flamboyancy, but he was never vulgar. He loved colour, he loved jewellery. He was always elegant.
André is recognized for iconic coats and caftans, can you tell us more about those?
DVF: He loved caftans because it was his way of carrying his body. But I also think he loved caftans because they looked imperial, because they were powerful and they suited him so much.
You mentioned travelling with André. His luggage collection is, in and of itself, ‘big.’ Can describe his love of travel?
DVF: André’s life was an adventure. It was a journey. He travelled from place to place and from environment to environment and wherever he went, the environment went with him. He had so many clothes and so many books and so many things, so he never had enough luggage. He collected luggage, he collected books and he collected friends.
How do you think the Collection of André Leon Talley represents his life and style?
DVF: There's nothing that represents you more than your personal objects. For someone who was the essence of style and taste, obviously his personal objects reflect who he was. Every single thing in the sale represents what he liked.
Going through the sale, you will appreciate his taste, his eye, his eclecticism. But what I would like to emphasise is the quality of person that he was. He was a very soulful person and he had a huge heart.
In a strange way, this sale is my last goodbye to him and all his beautiful things. All his favourite things will go to so many different places in the world, to people that respected him, loved him, and admired him.
How do you think André would want to be remembered?
DVF: I think he would be very happy to see how people are respecting his memory, his style, his words, his work. I think he would be very flattered, and he deserves it all. The idea that he has a street named after him, he would love that. The idea that there will be a series of beautiful sales at Christie's, he would like that. The idea that his books keep on selling and selling, he would like that. I think he would like that so many people continue to learn about him and study his work.
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