(L) Photo by 21eme. (R) Photo by Stockholm Street Style.
Kim Kardashian has successfully recruited another fashion luminary into her camp. André Leon Talley has named Kardashian this month’s style muse for ZeeCee, the newly launched editorial platform for Zappos couture. While the Armenian beauty is a divisive figure, ALT’s anointment is noteworthy; the renowned editor is academically trained in the language of “The Muse”. As a candidate for a master’s degree in French Literature at Brown University, he investigated “the pivotal role played by all the fabulous, exotic North African women in the works of poet Charles Baudelaire and painter Eugène Delacroix”. The historic analysis would serve him well as he was lured to New York City by the bright lights of the catwalk.
In the big apple, ALT hit the ground running, landing an internship at The Costume Institute and a lifelong mentor in the formidable Diana Vreeland. He was quickly promoted to fashion editor at Interview, absorbing the cultural tenets of the era through the buzzing orb of Andy Warhol. In 1983, he joined the staff at Vogue, and in five short years was named creative director. His monthly column (the anachronistic Style Fax turned Life with André) hit a cool tone that combined the playfulness of gossip, a deference to aesthetics and the sharp observations of a memoirist. ALT took on fashion with a fearlessness and bravado reiterated by his impressive frame and booming presence.
André Leon Talley has proven to be one of the savviest in the industry. For proof, look no further than his singular career, to say nothing of his crucial influence on issues of race through an approach that has been gingerly yet effective in an industry built on superficial standing. His in-depth articles for Vogue evince his training in academia (See “Master of the House” on Karl Lagerfeld, 1995), while his independently curated shows have won accolades. Last year, he took a turn at Fern Mallis’ illuminating 92Y series. When she noted that Librans do not enjoy being slaves to fashion, he responded thoughtfully, “I’m not a slave. I consider myself a custodian, a curatorial person of fashion”. Hand-in-hand with the fashion bible, he carved out a niche in the industry, as a sartorial iconoclast, lifestyle ambassador and keen tastemaker.
Master of the House, Vogue, 1995.
Style Fax Articles by André Leon Talley for Vogue, 1998.
André Leon Talley and Diana Vreeland, Photo by Bill Cunningham, 1974.
(L) André Leon Talley and Bill Cunningham, Photo by Arthur Elgort. (R) Grace Jones and André Leon Talley, 1984.
Perhaps inspired by the kind hand of Mrs. Vreeland in his own life, Leon Talley has made mentoring and championing of young talent a hallmark of his career. His blessing carries enviable weight, so his appointment of Kim Kardashian is significant, if a bit controversial. In 2012, Anna Wintour famously banned her from attending the Met Ball as the date of beau Kanye West. Less than two years later, she finds herself the darling of industry titans, as she and sartorially-minded West enjoy whisperings of the ultimate triumph – Kardashian gracing the cover of Vogue.
Kim Kardashian began as a product of her time. She came on the scene at the hip of BFF Paris Hilton, a sex tape and reality TV show a piece. As a minor stylist, she exemplified the flashiness of the aughties, a decade synonymous with extensions: hair, eyelashes, platforms, tanned skin, rhinestones and curves. Like Hilton, she could have extinguished as a flash in the pan, a dated snapshot of a by-gone-era. Instead, something more interesting happened.
Kardashian has both defined and defied the era of the reality star. Her matriarchal clan has built a business empire on exotic beauty and an indomitable work ethic. She has tidily sidestepped the Kris Humphries imbroglio and emerged on the arm of West, dutifully winning over a long list of top designers, editors and photographs who have adamantly stepped into her corner; Riccardo Tisci considers her family, Bruce Weber was “taken” by her graciousness, and Carine Roitfeld has likened her to Marilyn Monroe. There has been some criticism of a mindless makeover, but in the hands of West and his team, she pared down and stepped up – discovering her silhouette, refining her palette and celebrating timeless, instead of trendy, luxury. In the hands of such experts, the beauty and her enviable curves might be the perfect canvas for spectacular vintage. Certainly those Max Mara coats are in the spirit of Hollywood’s golden era.
Is the André Leon Talley sanction a hint that the future Mrs. West might be one step closer to the coveted Vogue cover? From Irene Castle to Jackie Kennedy, style icons are defined as much by influence as by popularity. And every era gets the icon they deserve. So whether you love, hate, love to hate or hate to love Kim, her presence is as undeniable as that marigold ensemble was breathtaking.
Kim Kardashian in Max Mara Coats.
Kim Kardashian (wearing Stephane Rolland) and Kanye West, Paris Fashion Week.
Kim Kardashian wears mask by Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal Earrings Givenchy Haute Couture Vintage crown from Christian Daubanay Paris, Photos by Karl Lagerfeld, CR Fahsion Book, Issue 3.
Kim Kardashian wearing Dress by Ann Demeulemeester, Jackets (layered) Vintage Chanel, Ring Maison Martin Margiela, Photo by Karl Lagerfeld, CR Fashion Book, Issue 3.
(L) Kim Kardashion and Carine Roitfeld. (R) Kim Kardashian and Riccardo Ticsi.