Q

André Leon Talley reflects on Studio 54 and pandemic fashion

Vogue's former editor-at-large joined Tom Power to discuss the magic of New York City's Studio 54 and why you may want to consider dressing up during the pandemic.

Tonight, the former Vogue editor will be giving a talk in support of the AGO's upcoming Studio 54 exhibit

André Leon Talley is the former editor-at-large of American Vogue. (Jonathan Becker)

For three glorious, decadent years in the late '70s, André Leon Talley was a regular at Studio 54 in New York City.

According to the fashion icon, one of the great things about the infamous disco nightclub was that on any given night you might find yourself dancing next to New York socialites, artists, drag queens or possibly a "leather man from some sex dungeon on the [Lower East Side]."

"It was the music and the mix of people; it was the fashion and the mix of people. I really think that was the success of [Studio 54]," Talley said in a new interview with q's Tom Power.

WATCH | André Leon Talley's full interview with q host Tom Power:

Tonight, on Feb. 9, Talley will be giving an online talk with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in support of the Art Gallery of Ontario's upcoming exhibit Studio 54: Night Magic, which explores how the nightclub became the global epicentre of music, fashion and design.

In his conversation with Power, Talley said he and von Furstenberg would go to Studio 54 about three times a week during the summers. He'd stay out dancing until 5 a.m., at which point he would return home, take a nap and then get ready to leave for his job at Women's Wear Daily.

As for his attire, Talley said he would strictly wear a bespoke or custom-made suit for a night out at Studio 54.

"If you see pictures of me and Diana Ross, I'm in black tie," he said. "It's by Dior."

André Leon Talley dancing with Diana Ross at Studio 54 in 1979. (Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)

Pandemic fashion

Now, nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Talley laments not having "any 54 to go to," but he hasn't stopped dressing up.

"I dress up as if I'm going out," he said about his lockdown attire. He's wearing a gold lamé kaftan by Gucci x Dapper Dan, Hermès gloves and a hat from London, England.

We live in a pandemic, where fashion is not the most important part of your conversation, but it is vital to who you are.- André Leon Talley

Power recalled the last time they spoke in 2018, when Talley referred to dressing well as "a moral code" (putting your best self forward with consideration for your budget).

When asked why he thinks dressing well is still important under the present circumstances — when there's no opportunity or occasion — Talley responded "to stimulate yourself."

"We live in a pandemic, where fashion is not the most important part of your conversation, but it is vital to who you are, to express yourself through your clothes."


Hear the full conversation with André Leon Talley near the top of this page, where he talks more about Studio 54 as well as his love of UGG and Bridgerton, and what he thought of the fashion on U.S. presidential inauguration day.

Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Cora Nijhawan.

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