Early in the morning, 138th Street was closed off to traffic, barricades were set up, tents were erected and around 10 a.m. A stylish throng of people began to arrive in Harlem.
You would have thought it was a head of state, a foreign king, but it was for the celebration of the life of André Leon Talley. André Leon Talley, a black man from the Jim Crow South, who made it to the top of the fashion mountain.
Lush white flowers (his favorites), orchids, peonies, and other greenery blanketed the altar of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, André’s longtime house of worship.
He dedicated his life to fashion.
He dedicated his life to the church.
It is what sustained him, it is what kept him going through the roughest times, what grounded him through the most triumphant of times.
Carolina Herrera, Naomi Campbell, Marc Jacobs, Bethann Hardison, Anna Wintour and others all gave heartfelt remarks about the indelible mark that André left on their lives. More than 700 well wishers looked on, at times dabbing their eyes, other times laughing with the stories that were told.
The legendary Valerie Simpson belted out what felt like what we call 3bibi nyum (black music) in Ghana. Accompanied by the piano, she told stories of André coming to her party—still with his church tambourine. She sang “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” to celebrate.
“One thing about André, he was always authentic,” she said.
André’s dear friend Diane von Furstenberg held us all together as she shared stories of their 40-plus year friendship. She spoke of André, “always loyal, always tall.”
Bette Middler, Edward Enninful, Darip Calmese, Kimora Lee Simmons, Karlie Kloss, Kate Moss, Grace Coddington, Ralph Rucci, Rachel Maddow and a host of young people, who may never have worked with André, but certainly walk in the path that he blazed.
They came to share, to celebrate and to be in that moment of history.
The torch has firmly been passed to an able-bodied group of people in this next generation to carry on with the same grandeur and style that Andre brought. Though there will never, ever be another—we will, as Dario Calmese put it, “forever sing his name in the halls of history.”