Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley is known for his taste and candor, whether lauding young designers like LaQuan Smith or Jason Wu, chiding America's Next Top Model contenders for their "dreckitude," or introducing sadly shod shoppers to new Manolo Blahniks. Most recently, he was distressed by the parade of lackluster frocks at the Emmys. "Red-carpet style has not evolved," he sighs. "Whenever I see the red-carpet shows, I wonder what happened to these people. Who told them to get dressed that way?" (If only he could host the award pre-shows, we might be able to watch them without the mute button on ... )
Tonight, Talley is trading his usual front-row seat for the catwalk, hosting Fashion's Night Out's first public fashion show with blogger and model Hanneli Mustaparta, which will be streamed live on cbs.com. We chatted with the Fashion Week fixture about his Fashion's Night Out plans, dream ANTM guest judge, and reemergence on the tennis court.
So you're hosting the Fashion's Night Out fashion show and webcast. What's your strategy?
I'm delighted to be co-hosting with Hanneli. I've been having meetings all this week; this is going to be historically significant. We're bringing fashion to the people.
Do you think Fashion Week should be made more accessible to the public?
Of course — it's very important that fashion be accessible to everyone. Anna [Wintour] has spearheaded something that is vital to increasing fashion awareness and boosting the economy of shopping.
What's your agenda for Fashion's Night Out?
First I'll go to Manolo Blahnik, then to Dylan Lauren's candy store. I'm on a panel judging dresses made from candy by Savannah College of Art and Design students. I'll pass by Chanel quickly, then head down to the Ralph Lauren store, where I'm introducing a performance by Janelle Monae. And then I'll go to Début, where they're selling T-shirts painted with my likeness.
Who are your favorite designers?
Well, I have lots of them. I always look to Carolina Herrera and Ralph Lauren. Marc Jacobs is going to be a special moment in Fashion Week — it always is. And there's also always some excitement at Donna Karan.
Any up-and-comers you're excited about?
LaQuan Smith. It's extra-special to see someone who's self-taught. He cut his collection in his grandmother's bedroom in Queens, but his clothes are flawlessly finished, with a real sense of modernity.
What's the first designer item you ever bought?
A Ralph Lauren blanket for my dorm room, with a Polo pony on it. I also bought a gray hand-knit pullover sweater, with a patch pocket and a leather toggle on it. I don't have the sweater anymore, but I still have the blanket somewhere.
How would you describe your personal style?
Historical references and inspiration — that covers it all. The specific reference depends on the day.
What trends are you appreciating right now?
I love the sweater story in Vogue. The sweater is the new jacket; there are so many ways to wear it, whether belted or with a ballgown. It's no longer about the twin set: It can be a pinup-girl sexy or a cozy grandfather's cardigan.
What's one item you're saving to buy, fashion-related or otherwise?
I'm looking forward to having my house painted; I'm having that done in a big way. It's classical white with black shutters. I'm having a painter in from Washington, D.C., who was recommended to me by Maureen Dowd.
What's something you never leave the house without?
The New York Times; I read it every morning. The op-ed page is my favorite.
Season 15 of America's Next Top Model premieres tomorrow. Would you say it's more high-fashion than previous seasons?
Absolutely, purely based on the people who came on the show as guest judges. We had designers like Diane Von Furstenberg and Zac Posen. When you have the president of the CFDA on, the quality is obviously elevated.
Who would be your dream guest judge?
Linda Evangelista. She's one of the greatest models in our time — I think she would be extraordinary.
Are you recognized more frequently since becoming a judge on ANTM?
Of course they do, but I'm thrilled with it. I love when people come up to me in airports. As long as they're polite, I don't mind at all.
What's up next for you after Fashion Week?
I'm going to take up tennis again and bring my Louis Vuitton outfits back out. I'm researching clubs and tennis coaches in Westchester — I need a pro.