“It's too soon to say what my favorite collection is. There is a mood that I think is strong which is dress up, dress up. Dress up with a capital D,” says André Leon Talley, the Vogue editor and reality-television judge extraordinaire. He is sitting in the back of his black chauffeured BMW, draped in a Louis Vuitton monogrammed fur scarf that is so big and luxe it’s practically a throw, his head capped with a fedora tipped down toward his nose, just so. It is Monday night, just before the Ralph Rucci show, and Talley has invited us here to talk fall 2011 New York Fashion Week. “It's dressier for the American market than it’s been in a long time, and perhaps in the sensibility of dressing up, some may have gone off the cliff and overboard — but I'm not going to say who that is,” Talley says with a laugh. “But we're not looking for retro glamour, we're looking for modernity and youth and youthfulness and sexuality that's contemporary and urban. But I do think the trend of dressing up is a good thing.”
The beige leather seat we occupy behind the driver is the most comfortable one we will occupy all Fashion Week. A hand knocks on the window behind us as Talley pontificates. We turn around to see those knuckles belong to Whoopi Goldberg. “Love! LOVE!” Talley exclaims. “Teddy, get out, escort her up,” Talley tells his dapper assistant, as the locked windows fail to open. “I don't know why I can't do these windows. Sir, you're going to take Whoopi to the Armory when we leave here,” he instructs her driver. That would be for the Marc Jacobs show, of course.
Though Talley has certainly seen things he’s liked by this point in the week, he refuses to call out trends. “I don’t speak trends,” he says. “It's too soon, the jury's still out. Even though people are going, ‘What's the new trend?' there is no new trend. This is the first week of Fashion Week — we’ve got four weeks to go. This is New York, London, Milan, Paris. Who can say what the trend is?” He has a point. As we speak, Fashion Month is only one eighth finished — an entire season can hardly be summed up with that fraction of the shows completed.
But if Talley were to dress someone tomorrow for a red carpet, he knows exactly what he’d put her in. “I would certainly be going to Diane Von Furstenberg” — he says it “dee-AHN,” not “die-ANNE” — “for the black-and-white gaucho look with the print — I think it was like a shirt and pants with a black belt and the black Maria Felix hat. Or I would be going to her for the sensibility of fringe boots in burgundy suede with a beautiful rust cinnamon skirt, with a deep ruby red blouse,” he recalls with photographic memory. “All of these looks are coming from Diane Von Furstenberg and her jet set youth of the seventies in Paris, when one partied all night and worked very hard during the day to be beautifully dressed and to be glamorous. That's what I would be dressing someone in right now.”
There is one trend, if we may call it that so soon, that Talley is less keen on: the much-talked about long skirts, often in winter wool fabric, that have saturated the runways this season. “It's not a look I would call urban pragmatism,” declares Talley. “The average woman, I don't think, is going to give a hoot about a skirt to the floor as she navigates herself from her morning wake-up moments, to dropping the kids off at school and going on to the office. However, a young fashionista might do that to be edgy and cool, but she’s going to have a hard time. Look at all this dirty snow. Do you REALLY want to go out in the snow with your clothes sweeping through the old — four-week old — mounds of snow all over the sidewalks? I don't think so. It's not a pretty picture.”
Now do enjoy a sound bite from this most fabulous of interviews: