Now, we’re not ones to gossip, so you didn’t hear this from us, but word on the catwalk is that André Leon Talley is planning to serve some tea with his new memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. In fact, we’ve been hearing increasing buzz about some of the juicier bits of Talley’s tell-all, which he hopes “will astonish all readers,” according to a Wednesday Instagram post that announced the book’s publication, which had moved from its original May date to September due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but will now be out on May 19.
The reason for its accelerated release? Fervor for the book increased after British tabloid the Daily Mail—yes, the same publication currently being sued by Duchess of Sussex, Meghan—teased portions of Talley’s unprecedented rise in the world of fashion, a journey he first chronicled in the 2018 documentary The Gospel According to André. In the film, Talley alluded to an estrangement from American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, his one-time champion and friend who twice hired him as Vogue’s editor-at-large. Throughout the ‘90s and early aughts, the 6'6" multilingual fashion journalist became a fixture in the front row of fashion shows, almost always seated alongside the diminutive editor.
Wintour appeared in The Gospel According to André with only kind things to say about her caftan-loving former colleague. But in The Chiffon Trenches, Talley reportedly confirms the icy countenance suggested by former Wintour assistant Lauren Weisberger in the 2003 novel The Devil Wears Prada, in which the thinly-veiled fictional editor-in-chief “Miranda Priestly” (immortalized by Meryl Streep in the 2006 film adaptation) terrorizes her assistants and cruelly undermines loyal colleagues. The Daily Mail claimed that Talley’s real-life account alleges that Wintour left him with “vast emotional and psychic scars” after she discarded the now 71-year-old journalist when he became “too old, too overweight, [and] too uncool” (h/t The Cut).
Talley has not refuted the Mail’s report, which also claimed that he characterized Wintour as “not capable [of] human kindness.” Nevertheless, last week he told WWD that Wintour, now also Condé Nast’s artistic director and global content adviser, has seen a galley of the book and that he’d “made a few changes that she had requested.” Of any further response or potential reconciliation between the two, he simply said, “The ball is in her court,” telling WWD:
I think people are riveted by this because Anna Wintour is on everybody’s brain waves because she is a very powerful human being. Perhaps they are perplexed or mystified by me, my relationship to Vogue, how did I land at Vogue, why am I not at Vogue now, what’s going on… People are so fascinated by this because she is a very, very powerful woman as with ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ She managed to be more than an icon. She is a world figure.
To date, Wintour’s only response has been via Condé Nast spokesperson Joseph Libonati to the New York Times, saying she “wishes André only the best.”
But even reports of Talley’s disclosures have encouraged others to do the same, in hopes of dampening the influence of fashion’s most powerful woman—no, person. Designer Ralph Rucci wrote a scathing Instagram post in support of Talley, in which a picture of the two men was accompanied by a rambling caption that suggested he’d also be in the market for a tell-all about Wintour:
Now you DO REALIZE that a door, locked for years, out of fear of retribution for truth, has been OPENED WIDE. My dear friend and man of such vision, intelligence, and hurt has spoken forth regarding the British woman who works at Vogue. I am proud of him for taking this step because there has been so much personal evil and destruction, and now perhaps others will feel safe to speak.
Last night He asked when will I find my space of strength and tell all. I told him and you that I will.... now he must take center stage. I have been working on all of the evil memories, and we have emailed and photographed proof along with many, many people who came forth and spoken..... and I will write about what I had to contend with concerning this very, very meaningless person who deeply knew that she had no substance to exist in the realms of Snow, Vreeland, Mirabella, Orton, Weir, and thus she had to [iceberg] her self to float through the sea and destroy not help our metier. It’s finished! The recalibration of life, perspective, and the essence, which is the need and destination of love, will now lift this disease. Oh, she did not act alone, she had a diabolical man who assisted in the [satanic] plan.
Karma. It’s a severe injury to the brain to realize that we have tolerated this mediocrity in our metier for almost four decades.
But lest you think Wintour is the only public figure Talley dishes on in his memoir, she’s simply the one getting the most press. According to Page Six, late designer and photographer Karl Lagerfeld, also a former friend, reportedly also gets ample—and revealing—page space, as does shoe designer Manolo Blahnik and artist Andy Warhol, whose famed studio “The Factory” was frequented by Talley. This, in addition to chronicling a decades-long career that took Talley from his grandmother’s humble home in Jim Crow-era North Carolina to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute assisting famed editor Diana Vreeland to France, Italy and beyond.
“People have done things to me that I have forgiven them for. There are things in the book that you can’t imagine—the racism, everything. You don’t even understand how much I’ve gone through to get to be 71 years old and I hope that I will live a long time,” Talley told WWD.
In other words, we might have an instant bestseller on our hands—with more chapters to spare.
“I hope my new memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, will astonish all readers,” Talley wrote on Instagram. “I went into the deepest core of my being; my memory is intact. It is a deeply personal story of a life well lived within the world of fashion, in all of its most glamorous and cutthroat moments. I have communed with the greats.”
The Chiffon Trenches is available for preorder now.