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Image / Editorial

Vogue legend André Leon Talley’s new book tells what it’s really like to work with Anna Wintour

by Erin Lindsay
21st May 2020

Former creative director of U.S Vogue André Leon Talley’s forthcoming memoir promises a no-holds-barred depiction of life at the magazine under Anna Wintour

The Chiffon Trenches certainly seems an apt title for Vogue legend André Leon Talley’s memoir, set to be released at the end of this month. Talley’s book details his long and illustrious career with Vogue, working with Anna Wintour and his subsequent fall-out with the Editor-in-Chief.

According to reports, Talley does not hold back in his description of famed ‘ice-queen’ Wintour, and confirms long-standing rumours about her supposedly difficult work demeanor. At one point in the book, Talley says that Wintour is “not capable of basic human kindness” when he was ‘forced’ out of Vogue around 2018.

Talley joined Vogue in 1983 as fashion news editor, and admitted that he was ‘terrified’ of Wintour at first. However, when Wintour returned to U.S Vogue as editor in 1988, she brought Talley with her, and the pair became firm friends. Talley was hired as creative director, which made him the highest ranking black man in the history of fashion journalism and the most important male fashion writer in the world at the time.

Talley and Wintour remained friends for decades, and Talley was one of just two Vogue colleagues invited to Wintour’s wedding. But, according to the memoir, there were some similarities between Wintour and her Devil Wears Prada counterpart Miranda Priestley.

According to Talley, Wintour demanded that meetings be over within eight minutes, and that if one went over 15 minutes, something was ‘seriously wrong’. There were expense accounts for everything in Vogue, and everything Wintour wore was sent to the dry cleaners, apart from underwear.

Things came to an initial head in the mid-90’s, when Talley took a leave of absence from Vogue, feeling he ‘wasn’t being treated properly’, and returned to his hometown in North Carolina to grieve his grandmother’s death. During this time, Talley’s weight became an issue, and when he and Wintour made up and he returned to Vogue, the Editor-in-Chief staged an intervention, citing his weight as being ‘out of control’ and sending him to a rehab centre in North Carolina.

In 2016, Vogue released its first podcast series, with Talley as the host, and huge guests such as Tom Ford, Kim Kardashian, Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang appearing on the show. Talley was paid $500 per episode; a sum which he called ‘peanuts’, and his relationship with Wintour and the magazine began to sour.

Without warning, the podcast ceased production, and Talley cited Wintour’s ‘sphinx-like silence’ for his frustration. Talley wrote that Wintour had ‘decimated me with this silent treatment so many times’ and ‘this is just the way she resolves any issue’.

Talley laments his lost relationship with Wintour in the book, and admits he would love for her to reach out and rekindle a friendship. He wrote:

I was a friend to Anna and I knew I mattered back in our earlier days together. Today, I would love for her to say something human and sincere to me. I have huge emotional and psychological scars from my relationship with this towering and influential woman, who can sit by the queen of England, on the front row of a fashion show, in her uniform of dark glasses and perfect Louise Brooks clipped coiffure framing her Mona Lisa mystery face.

Who is she? Does she let down the proverbial dense curtain? She loves her two children and I am sure she will be the best grandmother. But there are so many people who worked for her and have suffered huge emotional scarring. Women and men, designers, photographers, stylists; the list is endless. She has dashed so many on a frayed and tattered heap during her powerful rule.

The Chiffon Trenches will be available on Amazon on May 28.

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