The André Leon Talley Estate Auction Goes Beyond the Clothes

The André Leon Talley Estate Auction Goes Beyond the Clothes

Jonathan Becker

Proceeds will support two Black churches he attended throughout his life.

When longtime Vogue editor André Leon Talley died last year at 73, there was an acute sense of loss in the fashion community. His contributions would be missed, but perhaps even more so, his presence. The larger-than-life figure approached his existence as a splendid art project—even choosing to play tennis in abundant Louis Vuitton, as seen in The September Issue. Fashion insiders and casual observers alike recognized the tall, imposing man dressed in theatrical caftans perched at the top of the Met Gala stairs as an interviewer—often the only person the night’s A-list guests granted a chat to.

Soon anyone could own a piece of the editor’s legacy. Beginning January 27, a new series of live and online auctions, presented by Christie’s, will sell treasured items owned by Talley. The catalog poignantly captures the remarkable ascent and journey of a Black man who was born in Jim Crow–era Durham, North Carolina; attended the prestigious Brown University to study French; worked with Andy Warhol; spent years living in Paris; and became the first Black creative director at American Vogue.

A significant portion of the items was retrieved from Talley’s home in White Plains, New York, and include one-of-one designs by Tom Ford and Diane von Furstenberg, photographs taken by the late Karl Lagerfeld, Louis Vuitton trunks (including one featured in ALT’s cameo in the Sex and the City film), books, a Chanel tennis racket, a bevy of Prada crocodile coats, vintage books, and so, so much more.

In total the auction includes 448 lots. According to Christie’s, this sum is a little over half of the possessions retrieved from Talley’s home and cataloged. “He was very generous and also gave some things to Savannah College of Art and Design and some friends,” says Bonnie Brennan, president of Christie’s Americas. “Not everything was available to us, but we certainly had a lot to choose from.” (The auction was arranged in close conjunction with Talley’s estate, which is overseen by financial consultant Alexis Thomas.)

Talley and Alber Elbaz attend the “Poiret: King of Fashion” Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007. Getty Images

The items routinely capture the uniquely large and expansive life Talley lived and how often it intersected with fellow renowned creatives. A personalized artwork by Andy Warhol, gifted to Talley in 1984, is expected to fetch over $150,000. (Talley worked at Warhol’s Factory and Interview magazine during the ’80s.) There are the straw boater hats immortalized in the Colin Douglas Gray portraits taken for his second autobiography, The Chiffon Trenches; a Norma Kamali sleeping-bag coat, which Talley wore in a 2021 Ugg campaign; the Chanel silk faille tiered cape he wore to the 2007 Met Gala. The grandeur and distinction of the pieces seemed to rise in accordance with Talley’s own, both within fashion and beyond.

“This was really André Leon Talley’s legacy and something he always intended to share,” Brennan says. “He always said that to his friends, that he was acquiring these things to create a legacy.” The auction is not narrowly focused on big-ticket items, though. There are more personal and sentiment-filled items that will be available. For example, a pair of L.L.Bean totes embroidered with Talley’s initials and the Vogue logo represent a staple among the magazine’s editors.

“The things that are more modest in value are equally representative and telling about who André was as some of the more valuable things that are in the live auction,” Brennan says. “We want to make sure we honor the full legacy of André Leon Talley with our buyer base.”

Proceeds will go toward the Abyssinian Baptist Church in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and the Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, both Black-majority churches. Talley, who frequently extolled the community-minded virtues of Black churches, attended both throughout his life.

And what edicts might the great ALT give to future owners of these pieces? “I think he really saw himself as a custodian and a curator,” says Deidrea Miller, head of communications at Christie’s Americas. “So if I were to envision what he might say, it would be to make sure whoever bought these had great respect and care for these objects and fashion as true art.”

The Collection of André Leon Talley will be sold through a live sale at Christie’s New York on February 15 and two online sales ending on February 16 and 17. A global tour will begin this month, debuting in Palm Beach (January 18 to 31) and continuing in Paris (January 23 to 26).

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