Extravagant, eccentric and larger than life, Andre Leon Talley is a fashion legend. Instantly recognisable in any front row, Talley is 6’7, African American, and is often found sporting a kaftan amid a sea of white women. As Anna Wintour’s former right-hand man at American Vogue, Talley’s influence on the magazine and the fashion world at large is extraordinary. Kate Novak’s 2017 doc The Gospel According to Andre is a loving testament to a life devoted to the ‘chiffon trenches’.
From Talley’s origins in North Carolina Novak traces how fashion become an escape from life in the Jim Crow South. A scholarship to study at Brown University would bring Talley to New York where in the 1970’s he spent his days working under legendary former Vogue editor Diane Vreeland and nights partying at Studio 54 amongst the likes of Andy Warhol and Diana Ross. His early editorial contributions to Vogue and a strong friendship with Karl Lagerfeld would lead Talley to Paris –the beating heart of couture fashion where he would begin to forge his now infamous fashion persona.
As a black man in a predominantly white industry, considerations of race and racism are unavoidable. In painful moments Talley recounts his experience of prejudice within the industry and in others Novak highlights how Talley’s career broadened the representation of black masculinity in popular culture.
Above all Novak celebrates Talley’s obsessional lust for beauty and style in its many forms. With appearances from Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Anna Wintour and Tom Ford, The Gospel According to Andre is a who’s who of the fashion world – essential viewing for anyone interested in fashion history.
Watch it now on Mubi or rent it in all the normal places