Real talk: When I grow up, I want to be the type of grande dame fashion editor who wears caftans while holding court on a chaise on some impossibly elegant veranda somewhere, tossing off witty observations and pithy quips. (Who am I kidding? I’m doing that right now—minus the veranda and chaise. Okay, so just the caftan, then.)
So, it was an absolute delight to see one of the most legendary figures in fashion, Mr. André Leon Talley, doing exactly that for Vice News, who asked him to critique the wardrobe of now-notorious clotheshorse Paul Manafort, whose nearly million-dollar wardrobe was submitted as evidence last week during his trial for tax evasion and and bank fraud.
As expected, the style connoisseur, whose incredible career was recently chronicled in the incredible documentary The Gospel According to André, didn’t mince words when discussing the quality of Manafort’s outrageously priced clothing, saying:
“These clothes ... are not the clothes that one would aspire to. You know, some of the suits that have been shown could’ve been easily at Men’s Warehouse.”
Tellingly, Talley also took issue with Manafort’s taste level—particularly his choice of fabrics, which belied an obvious predilection for prominent stripes and plaids.
“They’re almost clown plaids,” Talley laughs.
And that infamous $15,000 ostrich jacket? Talley questions why it even exists—and what occasion it could possibly be appropriate for:
Where do you wear that when you’re Paul Manafort? Where do you go? Do you go to lunch at the country club? Do you go to your Republican campaign strategy meeting in that on Saturday mornings? ... Maybe when you’re hobnobbing with the oligarchs of Russia on the weekends, you have to wear ostrich or python to impress them, I don’t know.
While Talley concedes that Manafort favorite the House of Bijan, which has outfitted several former presidents, is a legendary fashion house (“You think Putin’s suits come from Bijan?” he asks), his reaction to Manafort’s seemingly even more preferred label, the now-defunct Alan Couture, may as well have been, “I don’t know her.”
However, it’s Manafort’s spending that Talley—an indisputable expert on luxury—finds most obscene. Quipping on the lining of a particularly hideous jacket with an embroidered lining that reads “wearable art,” he exclaims, clearly horrified:
“‘Wearable art?’ Why isn’t a man collecting paintings?”
Never one to refrain from delivering a perfectly delivered zinger, Talley’s assessment of what he calls “Paul Manafortism” is that it was clearly an addiction to excess, but “sadly, it did not make the mark.”
“But I guess if you’re rinsing your hair in Grecian Formula to make it look like you don’t have any gray hair, you would do this,” he says.
(Please note that this was officially the moment of my death.)
But even one of fashion’s greatest and most searing critics isn’t immune to some sympathy (or was it just abject disdain?) ... even for an alleged international white-criminal mastermind who likely helped Russia hand-deliver us into the living hell that we know as the Trump presidency.
“It’s kind of sad to be talking about this,” Talley says. “I feel kind of—ashamed to be talking about this.”
We know, André. We’re laughing through our tears, too.