Dress to impress was the name of the game this Sunday night at the Katonah Museum of Art’s annual Himmel Award and Lecture, and for good reason: this year’s recipient, donning an emblematic red kimono and Gucci loafers, was André Leon Talley, former editor-at-large for Vogue magazine and quite the imposing fashion icon.
The Himmel Award acknowledges “creators, conceivers, radical thinkers, and risk-takers” whose work has inspired new ways of thinking within the arts community. Presenting this award to Talley simply addressed his already well-recognized impact on the world of fashion—his short acceptance speech as dynamic as his taste.
As fans and close friends filled the auditorium—Gloria von Thurn und Taxis settled in the front row—Talley thanked everyone for attending, and commented on his high regard for the county.
“It really is a beautiful place, Westchester. I love it. It’s my home,” said Talley. “I love the quietude and the serenity. I don’t like the squirrels and the skunks.”
After receiving the award, Talley sat down for an hour-long interview, during which he was asked to tell the stories behind several photographs taken during his extensive career, as well as a few of the Oscar de la Renta creations presented in his recently published, larger-than-life monograph, Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style.
A photograph of Talley’s grandmother, Bennie Francis Davis, followed by an image of a young Talley working alongside Diana Vreeland encouraged him to discuss an inspiration of his for joining the fashion industry: the incredible attention these women exhibited in defining their daily experience.
“I really got into the world of fashion because of Mrs. Vreeland,” said Talley, noting her dedication to maintenance and discipline.
Talley signing copies of his latest book, Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style
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A Q&A segment following the interview led to Talley commenting on the state of contemporary fashion, and his thoughts when passing women on the street. His answer?
“I don’t pay attention to women in the street,” Talley stated. “I don’t mean that to sound snobby or snarky or snooty.”
He pointed to the 60s and 70s, when women often dressed up simply to go to lunch.
“Today, you don’t see that iconic moment out on the street. You see that iconic moment on the internet,” said Talley.
Before the end of the night attendees were given the opportunity to have copies of Oscar de la Renta signed by Talley during a short wine reception. By this time Talley’s energy seemed to wane, requesting no more pictures be taken of him, however his enthusiasm for the recent release of his book, as well as his devotion to its contents, did not.
“I love curating because I think it’s therapy,” stated Talley. “It gives you joy.”