It’s hard to overestimate the enthusiasm with which some fashion corners have received Andr Leon Talleys’ campaign for Ugg. Everything is horrible and nothing makes sense EXCEPT for Andr Leon Talley as the new face of UGG, writer Evan Ross Katz tweeted when the ads dropped. We are adamant. Not only do the images showcase the shamelessly extravagant industrial montage in all its glory; they also make Talleys’ relationship with the brand official, after years of daring to bring them to the forefront.
The headlines are a welcome change for Talley, who reluctantly endures the drama surrounding her memories and especially her relationship with Anna Wintour for months on end. And yet, Talley has already entered another controversy surrounding Vogue: her new Kamala Harris cover, which Talley adores. On a phone call from his home in White Plains, New York, where he wore a beautiful black Ugg mule, he defended it as passionately as his must-have boots.
When did you get your first pair of Uggs?
I don’t remember, but I think it was about ten years ago. My first pair were the moccasins, then I got the ankle boots, which are my favorite boots, especially in hot weather. Now I have dozens, dozens. Sometimes they wear out and I have to throw them out and buy new ones, but that’s okay too. I find them so comfortable and chic, and they work with my work wardrobe, especially during fashion week. I was seen front row with Uggs and that’s how I had a relationship with them.
What were the reactions when you started wearing them for the shows?
Oh, no one even commented on them! No one said: Oh, you wear Uggs! They just saw me in Uggs and photographed me. I think people just accepted them.
I want to hear from you on a few other controversial fashion items. What do you think of Crocs?
All that is comfortable for any individual job. The Crocs work for chefs, people who work in the kitchens. Anything that makes an individual comfortable in their day-to-day work is great. I’m not going to kill a Croc at all. I don’t own any Crocs. It’s not that I wouldn’t wear them, but I don’t own any.
What about wearing leggings as pants?
It wouldn’t be good for my figure. I wouldn’t do that, no. But I approve of it for anyone who thinks they are fabulous.
And the mules, now that Rihanna helps them get a return?
Unbelievable. Blessed. Anyone who wants to do something that they think makes it look better, I say yes.
I know you are a huge Kamala Harris fan. Are there any designers, or especially black designers, that you would like to see her wear when she takes office?
I think she should wear whatever she wants, and I don’t think it should be limited to black designers, no quote. I think it should be limited to designers who make clothes that match her requirements for her wardrobe. I think she prefers pantsuits, and I think she would find fabulous pantsuits from the following designers: Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Laquan Smith, Tom Ford and Norma Kamali. They would look fabulous in her wardrobe. Whatever she is wearing, she will create fashion trends because she will create new trend from this blanket of Vogue. What are young girls who have just left puberty, 12, 13, 14 years old? Go see that and say: Oh, I wanna dress like her. I want to be her when I grow up. And that’s why this blanket is so awesome. This is why this blanket is so inspiring. To hell with all this cultural cancellation controversy. It’s stupid, stupid. The cover is awesome.
I didn’t expect this to be your reaction.
This is stupid. Kamala Harris is vice president and she is respected on their cover. By the way, the background was chosen because it represents the colors of her sorority, AKA, and there are a lot of black women in this sorority. And Tyler Mitchell photographed it. This whole controversy with the backlash has been ridiculous. People who have nothing to do with their life.
A lot, as critic Robin Givhan, thought it was disrespectful. Don’t you see it that way?
Not at all. Not at all.
Have you seen the digital cover too?
Yes. I mean, look, both are great. It’s a great blanket. It’s ambitious coverage. This is a cover of 2021. You have to look at the elegance in another prism, a modern context. Elegance is not what it was in 1965 or 1995 or 2005. And Kamala Harris is expressed in authenticity. This is who she is. She’s safe enough to pose for it. Apparently she creates her own photoshoots and those are her clothes, she selected. She offered to be photographed in what she likes a pantsuit in both, not a ball gown or an evening gown. And in 2021, the vice president wears Converse sneakers. We do not care? Its good.
I love Tyler Mitchell, but it’s disappointing that he’s just one of three black American photographers Vogue tapped to pull blankets.
There is another photographer named Dario Calmese, who photographed the Vanity Fair cover with Viola Davis in the summer. So there is a variety there.
Good, but not at Vogue. And this blanket was also a first to Vanity Fair.
Well i don’t know how to Vogue. But I think the fact that [Mitchell] was chosen to photograph the country’s first black vice president, which is historic, was taken with great seriousness. Obviously, Anna Wintour considered this a very serious task. I remember when I interviewed Michelle Obama before her first cover, it was a very delicate operation, with more than six months of planning. This thing was planned. It wasn’t something that flies at night, [Wintour] rejected. I applaud her for that, and I will always support her for putting this woman on the cover and making history. It is a time of celebration, and people have to stretch their minds to create a time of celebration. There she is standing, strengthened by her being and feeling comfortable in her black Donald Deal jacket, white t-shirt and sneakers.
You mentioned that you worked on the issue with Michelle Obama. Do you think it’s rare that Kamala has decided to do her hair?
I think it’s rare. I think Michelle Obama had notes and made her contribution. Ton Goodman has worked with her I think twice, three times and each time it was stunning and sensational images. I think there is a language between the editor and the subject, which was really wonderful. And I think there was a language between this editor [Gabriella Karefa-Johnson] and Vogue and Tyler Mitchell, and I’m all behind it. I support him 100%.
Do you think this marks a step forward for Vogue?
It marks a step forward in the New World Order of 2021. We cannot approach elegance as it once was. As someone put it on the internet, “If [Wintour] can’t find a way to photograph people other than in tailoring, but she found a way. She found a way through the integrity of Vice President Harris and her own uniform, her own professional uniform. She has been seen numerous times on the campaign trail wearing this uniform, and it’s symbolic of who she is: accessible, accessible and a human being. She does not bow down to the vanities of elegance or the imposed elegance of Vogue Editorial shoots, where they come up with clothing shelves, suggest clothing. It’s just, you know, a question of fact: it’s who I am and I am who I am, and I wear Converse. And whether we like it or not, it’s me. So I see it. I can’t get into Kamala Harris’s brain, nor Anna Wintour’s. But that’s how I see it. Internet users who call [Wintour] quitting is just plain stupid.
Will you attend the inauguration?
Oh yes. I’m going to be here alone that morning, glued to my library television. I’m going to grab some hot chocolate and sit there and watch it all day and be happy. I attended the first inauguration with Diane von Furstenberg. We were invited by Nancy Pelosi to very important seats on Capitol Hill, and we will never forget that day. We will always remember seeing Barack inaugurated as the first black president of this country. And it’s a bond and a memory that Diane von Furstenberg and I share every time we speak. She said, remember where we were standing, where these people were crawling like ants. We were sitting there for the inauguration.
It must have made it even more shocking to see what happened on Capitol Hill.
I watched it all day, from 1:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. I just sat there. I couldn’t believe what was going on.
Of course Melania [Trump] also took five days to recognize it.
No comment. No comment. COMMENT. [Laughs.] Your deaf. Your deaf! There she was, making a photo book on carpets …
At some point, you can’t catch up.
You can’t make it up. Your deaf! Marie Antoinette Complex. They’re there, storming the Capitol, and she’s doing a photoshoot of a carpet or something.
Hopefully it will be a lot quieter with Jill Biden in the White House.
It will be wonderful with Jill BidenDr. Jill Biden. It will be a wonderful time, a time of decency, when they enter the White House. We hope that we return to decency and business and being America, for all American citizens. Including these odious and hateful people. I wish I was there. And I’d love to meet with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. But I’m not going anywhere until I get the vaccine.
Related: Andr Leon Talley on darkness, religion and the importance of divas
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