Celebrating Difference and Diversity – A Tribute to Andrè Leon Talley and Thierry Mugler
The month of January saw the unfortunate loss of two male LGBT+ fashion icons that celebrated and expanded the fashion world. This tribute will celebrate the exceptional and boundary pushing work of the late and great André Leon Talley and Thierry Mugler.
André Leon Talley, ranked 45th in Out Magazine’s ‘50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America’, was a fashion journalist whose career spanned six decades. Rising through the ranks of American Vogue, beginning as a fashion news director, then becoming the first African-American male creative director, and eventually, editor-at-large – Talley walked so Edward Enninful could run. Talley helped advance the careers of many POC designers and models, pushing for top designers to feature more African-American models within their shows, mentoring the supermodel Naomi Campbell, and styling celebrities with new and upcoming POC designers. Vogue calls Talley “a towering figure of fashion in every sense” describing him as a larger-than-life character, not just because he was 6ft 7.
Talley was known for his extravagant statement capes, robes, and kaftans (many custom-made for him by famous designer friends). Whilst many may never have heard of Talley before his passing, it is not hard to imagine this amazing man, especially as the character Nigel Kipling in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (2006), played by Stanley Tucci, is believed to channel Talley. Talley made great headway within the fashion world for diversity, and one hopes that Anna Wintour (a long-time friend of Talley, despite many falling outs) will continue to celebrate his legacy.
Thierry Mugler was a French fashion designer, he was the creative director and creative adviser of Mugler – one of my personal favourite designers, because I am a sucker for haute couture. No one does it quite like 90s Mugler – chef’s kiss (the ‘Vogue Runway’ App is the best place to view these, and many other designers’, shows). The brand Mugler launched in the 70s and rapidly gained attention over the following decades and is still a brand to watch today. I am sure we’ve all seen Bella Hadid in the mesh bodysuit from the Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear and Kim Kardashian’s 2019 Met Gala ‘wet dress’. Mugler’s popularity was the consequence of his avant-garde architectural, hyperfeminine, and theatrical approach to haute couture.
His runways were boundary-pushing and stylistically impeccable. The Mugler fashion shows were extravagant, staged in arena-like environments with collections that had associated themes, such as sci-fi, Africa, vampire-devil, and aquatic. Much like Talley, Mugler strived for diversity in his runway shows, tackling racism and ageism; as well as incorporating non-traditional models such as drag queens, pornstars, and transgender women into his shows. The best example of Mugler’s revolutionary work is the Mugler Fall 1995 haute couture collection that marked the 20th anniversary of the brand – it is referred to as the ‘Woodstock of Fashion’ and had over 300 designed looks! Mugler’s designs are like no other, Mugler is like no other. It is extremely sad to hear of his passing, but his timeless designs and message of inclusion will live on forever.