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Andre Leon Talley will always remain a towering figure in fashion; forever woven within the DNA of the industry. Nearly one year after his death last January, Talley's belongings will head to auction at Christie's in a series of live and online auctions beginning January 27. The estate sale is estimated to achieve $725,000 and will benefit causes he supported throughout his life, including the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York and Mount Sinai Baptist Church in North Carolina.
A few standout lots of the sale include three pieces by Andy Warhol; a Chanel navy silk faille tiered cape; and a pair of Chanel Gripoix glass-and-gilt-metal cuff bracelets. But, if there's a material item that tells his story best, the honor would go to his collection of Louis Vuitton trunks.
"Andre Leon Talley was a fervent student of fashion, luxury, and French culture," Rachel Koffsky, the international head of handbags at Christie's, tells Town & Country."Not only do these trunks exemplify this, but they were also constant fixtures throughout his life. His collection developed as he developed within the fashion industry."
To understand this better, one must take the time to read his autobiography, The Chiffon Trenches, where this relationship with with the French Maison is well-traced. The first mention of the luggage is in 1974. Talley, freshly graduated from Brown University with a Masters in Arts in French Literature, packed his things and eagerly moved to New York City to begin a career in the fashion industry. The bag in which he tucked his life away was a Louis Vuitton satchel.
In New York, he struck gold, working with greats like Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan of Art; Andy Warhol at Interview magazine; and eventually landing at American Vogue as the magazine's first Black creative director from 1988 to 1995.
In the biography, the second mention of the trunks is in 1989. A now well-connected and highly-influential Talley was invited by designer Karl Lagerfeld to spend Christmas with him in his country home outside of Paris. Talley's luggage of choice evolves from a simple Louis Vuitton satchel to a collection of the brand's trunks. Later in 2000, Talley designs a series of caftans and goes to Lagerfeld asking for a brand new wardrobe to go along with them. "Go to Louis Vuitton and pick whatever you want," Lagerfeld told him.
Other memorable moments between Andre Leon Talley and his Louis Vuitton collection include the moment when Marc Jacobs, who served as the French Maison's creative director from 1997 to 2014, gifted a set of trunks to Talley. Unlike the others, they were black and free of monograms, and Talley treasured them so much that he never even used them for travel. In 2013, Talley was in a car crash during couture week. According to the autobiography, his first worry was whether or not his Louis Vuitton luggage was okay.
"You can see, how these trunks, and Louis Vuitton in general, were constant companions throughout his decades of contributing and changing the fashion industry," Koffsky says. "These luggages are emblazoned with his name, legacy, and iconography."
Alongside the Vuitton trunks, a set of Prada luggage and bags gifted by creative director Miuccia Prada, another longtime friend of Talley.
The sale will begin its tour on January 18, first in Palm Beach, then Paris on January 23, and finally in New York on February 9. "This tour will honor André Leon Talley’s life and legacy," Cathy Busch, Christie’s Deputy Chairman and Head of Midwest tells T&C. "As a creative genius, as a force for change, and as an individual who savored beauty and luxury in all forms."
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