André Leon Talley has much to be proud of in his storied career: being mentored by legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, blazing a trail as one of the first Black talents on Vogue’s masthead, and being both a bestselling author (of 2020's The Chiffon Trenches) and a bonafide fashion legend, garnering his own acclaimed documentary in 2018, The Gospel According to André.
Throughout much of that film, Talley held court with the cameras from his beloved home in White Plains, N.Y., a white Colonial manse that Talley called his “sanctuary” when speaking with the New York Times in 2018. He most recently showed off the exterior of the 11-room historic home during a campaign for UGG in January of this year, correlating its pillared front porch to his upbringing in South Carolina.
“Good things can happen to you on the front porch. Good news can come to you on the front porch,” he said in the campaign spot, quickly adding: “Bad news, too.”
Well, there appears to be some bad news regarding Talley’s possession of his cherished home, which he has long maintained that he owns. However, as reported by the New York Post on Monday, once “long-time, trusted friends” of Talley, former Manolo Blahnik USA CEO George Malkemus and his husband, Anthony Yurgaitis, may be the true owners of the home, and have begun legal proceedings to evict the 72-year-old fashion icon. The suit alleges Talley has defaulted on approximately $500,000 in what appears to have been a rent-to-own agreement on the 11-room historic home, which the couple purchased for $1,020,000 in 2004 when Talley, forced to move by a mold problem in his former apartment, was having trouble securing financing. His friends reportedly agreed to help, with a “gentlemen’s agreement” to transfer the title to Talley upon reimbursement.
Per the Post:
The pair have known Talley for nearly 40 years. Yet on November 12, 2020, Malkemus, “Commenced a summary non-payment proceeding in White Plains City Court … seeking to evict Talley from the home and for a money judgement against Talley in the amount of $515,872,97 representing alleged arrears,” new court papers state.
Talley — who in 1988 was appointed by Anna Wintour to be the creative director of Vogue, the first African-American person to ever hold the position — responded by filing his own lawsuit against Malkemus and Yurgaitis in Westchester Supreme Court on January 25, 2021...
While Malkemus and Yurgaitis allege Talley is behind in rent, the former Vogue editor-at-large’s filing alleges, “This action arises out of the Defendents’ improper attempt to evict Talley from a home … that is rightfully his, so that they may sell the property.”
He claims that he has lived at the home since and paid back more than the purchase price, totaling $1,075,588, as of January 2020, with his court papers stating: “He has also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to third parties to maintain and improve the home.”
The issue is a sticky one, as Talley and his attorneys counterclaim that Malkemus and Yurgaitis are unethically seeking “to invoke a never-operative ‘lease’ agreement in order to enrich themselves by forcing Talley from the home, seeking an additional $515,872.97 from Talley as alleged ‘arrears’ and selling the home solely for their own benefit,” the Post reports. This is in spite of Talley’s claim to have not only paid a $120,000 partial down payment on the home, but a repayment of $1,075,558 of the purchase price by January 1, 2020. Additionally, Talley allegedly spending approximately $200,000 of his own money in upkeep and repairs of the home, including replacing the roof, boiler and windows and shutters.
“Despite this, in or around March of 2020, the Defendants began discussing with Talley their interest in selling the home solely for their own financial benefit,” Talley’s lawsuit alleges (h/t NY Post). “They began asking him to either make additional payments or vacate the home so it could be sold to a third party.”
“The parties agreed that Talley would exclusively own, occupy and care for the home,” the documents continue. In the intervening years, “Talley made episodic payments over time dictated by his income flow...Talley never made these payments to the Defendants on a monthly basis, and was not asked to...Since 2004 Talley has always operated with the understanding the home was his, and that the arrangement could be formalized upon his repayment of the purchase price of the home.”
For whatever reason, this arrangement involving property and enormous sums of money “was not reduced to writing.” Now that the parties are no longer friends, and there is seemingly no contract in place (no word on receipts of repayment), “Talley has no adequate remedy at law,” the claim states. It also suggests the dispute was conveniently timed just prior to a bankruptcy petition against Manolo Blahnik USA, so there’s that. “In return for his decades of friendship and trust, on November 12, 2020, Malkemus commenced a summary non-payment proceeding in White Plains City Court,” says Talley’s claim.
What’s that they say about doing business with friends?
“The complaint only tells [Talley’s] side of the story,” says Malkemus and Yurgaitis’ attorney Edward David, who says a counterclaim is coming that “will explain the real story.”
“Remember, the initial complaint was for eviction in Greenburgh Town Court. Malkemus and Yurgaitis are the record owners of the house and want to sell it,” he told the Post. “Talley is over $300,000 behind in rent. He is desperate to stay and they concocted their ‘story’.”