André Leon Talley

When the daily newsletter theSkimm asked André Leon Talley to tell their readers who is he is, he answered as with the following:

"I’m a larger-than-life fashion personage with a great deal of gravitas, having gone through five decades of fashion. . . . I’ve been at the forefront of great fashion moments in the 20th century and 21st century. So I’ve been through the chiffon trenches."

And while that is a lovely and vivid description it doesn't actually answer the question. The answer is that he is currently a contributing editor at Vogue after leaving his position as editor-at-large of the publication, a title he held from 1998 through 2013.

image via Vogue.com

Talley studied French as an undergrad at North Carolina Central University, going on to earn his Masters, and originally hoped to teach the language. After graduation however, he took at a job working for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine for $50 a week as well as volunteering for Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the late seventies Talley worked for both Women's Wear Daily and W magazine, continuing to expand his already impressive professional network.

In 1983 he landed the job of Fashion News Director at Vogue, eventually working his way to Creative Director (alongside Grace Coddington) before leaving to work for W in Paris. As a creative director, Talley helped to style and direct the fashion editorial shoots appearing in Vogue. Similarly to Coddginton, Talley became somewhat of an accidental celebrity after appearing in the documentary The September Issue. His celebrity grew after he joined the judging panel of America's Next Top Model from cycle 14 through 17. He is perhaps most recognizable because of his penchant for dramatic fashion, particularly over-sized caftans.

Talley has long been a champion for African American designers and has consistently pushed for more diversity in fashion magazines, both in terms of models and designers.

Fast Facts:
- He was raised in Washington D.C. by his grandmother, Bennie
- Talley has a Masters in French Studies from Brown University which he attended on scholarship
- Out magazine ranked him 45th in their 2007 list of '50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America'
- He appeared in the Sex and the City movie and in an episode of Empire
- Talley is close friends with Serena Williams, Kimora Lee Simons, and Mariah Carey
 

Aurora James of Brother Vellies

The first CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund finalist to be introduced to you is Aurora James and her line Brother Vellies.

James started her line, Brother Vellies, in 2013 with the goal of creating gorgeous shoes while providing sustainable jobs for people in Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa. The name of the brand comes from the traditional veldskoen, or vela, desert boots worn throughout many parts of Africa. In an interview with WhoWhatWear.com, the Canadian designer said it was only natural for her to create an eco-friendly brand because of her upbringing and her mother's environmental focus. As a landscape architect, James's mother taught her to always consider her effect on nature.

“When I originally applied for the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge last year, I actually didn’t think I would meet the qualifications, because I don’t make, like, hemp shoes. But then I read about it and realized we not only met the qualifications, we actually blew them out of the water. It made me realize that the bar of environmentalism and sustainability in fashion is actually really, really low, so if you just put in a little effort, you’ll actually be far ahead of the game.
“If you’re conscious of how much waste is being made in the industry, that should propel you then to make more sustainable choices. And at the end of the day, if you’re selling something that’s a designer item, it should come with the whole experience of luxury. Luxury doesn’t involve garbage; it involves beautiful, artisanal things that are meant to be kept for a long time, and that just comes with using better materials.”

All Brother Vellies shoes are handmade by artisans in workshops across the three African countries James works in. She makes frequent trips from New York to visit the artisans and to see the work being done to help bring her line to life. She also ensures that all her raw materials come from sustainable sources. For instance, the leathers comes from Nile Perch, Springbok, and Rabbit sold by local farmers for meat or Kudo leather which is an animal byproduct resulting from a government mandated culling due to overpopulation. James even uses the left over scraps to make kid's shoes for her collection. 

The women's line is priced from $235 to $1,250 and is available to shop now the Brother Vellies website, brothervellies.com. To learn more about her eco freindly efforts visit the Sustainability page. Best of luck Aurora!

Who/What : the Master List

I didn't attend any of the couture shows in Paris this year. Not to be confused with last year when I also didn't attend any shows and the year before when I still didn't. In fact I've never even been to the city but that doesn't mean I don't want to sound like I know exactly what everyone is talking about when they reference Chanel's casino takeover or Dolce & Gabbana's Midsummer Night's Dream soiree. You can watch live streams, comb through every image on Style.com, and read every review but the easiest way to slip up and end up feeling like a phony is by mispronouncing designer and brand names. Enter your saving grace - the Designer Pronunciation Master List.

Study away ladies and gents! And then go with confidence to tell your coworkers how much you enjoy Balmain's new sister themed campaign, how innovative you find Mary Katrantzou's patterns and prints, and how you can't wait to run out to buy some of the new Giambattista Valli for MAC collection.

Anna Suianna swee

Ann Demeulemeesterann de-mule-eh-meester

Azzedine Alaiaazz-eh-deen ah-lie-ah

Badgley Mischkabadge-lee meesh-kah

Balenciagabah-len-see-ah-gah

Balmainbahl-mahhhhn

Bottega Veneta: bow-tay-guh vah-netta

Christian Lacroixchristian luh-kwa

Christian Louboutinchristian loo-boo-tan

Comme des Garçonscomb dey gah-sown

Dolce & Gabbanadol-chey and gab-ana

Dries Van Notendrees van know-ten

Gareth Pughgareth pew

Giambattista Valligee-am-bah-tease-ta vah-lee

Gianfranco Ferregee-ahn-franco feh-ray

Givenchyzjee-von-shee

Hermèser-mez

Hervé Légerair-vay lay-jah

Hussein Chalayanhoo-sane sha-lion

Issey Miyakeiss-ee mee-yah-key

Jean Paul Gaultierzhon paul go-tee-ay

Junya Watanabejun-yah wat-an-ah-bey

Kinder Agguginikinder ag-ooh-gee-nee

Lanvinlahn-vahn

Loeweloh-wev-eh

Louis Vuittonloo-wee vwee-tahn

L'Wren Scottla-ren scott

Maison Martin Margielamay-sohn martin mar-jhell-ah

Marchesamar-kay-sah

Mary Katrantzoumary cat-trant-zoo

Miu Miumew-mew

Monique Lhuilliermonique le-hu-lee-ay

Moschinomos-key-no

Olivier Theyskensoh-liv-ee-ay tay-skins

Proenza Schoulerpro-en-zuh skool-er

Rochasrow-shahs

Rodarterow-dar-tay

Roksanda Ilincicroksanda ill-in-chik

Salvatore Ferragamosal-vah-tor-re fer-ra-gah-moh

Sonia Rykielsewn-yah ree-key-el

Thakoontah-koon

Versacevur-sah-chee

Yves Saint Laurenteve san lau-ron

Yohji Yamamotoyoh-jee yam-ah-mo-to

Teri Agins

The fashion industry is one of the most competitive in the world, and fashion journalism is no exception. Thousands of writers strive to become  one of the few with full time writing jobs or even just a recurring freelance gig at the industry's top magazines, newspapers, and online publications. With so many people vying for the same jobs, how can you make yourself stand out from the crowd? By working hard, takings risks, and studying up on Teri Agins.

Ms. Agins is one of the most successful fashion writers out there and she has no plans to slow it down. She is best known for her work as the Wall Street Journal's premiere fashion journalist, but over the past few years Agins has also put out numerous books. Her latest, titled "Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers," discusses the ever growing trend of celebrities taking on roles as fashion designers (think Beyonce for TopShop or the Kardashians for Sears). Her reach is far and wide in this industry and if you would like to follow in her footsteps, she has a few pieces of advice.

image via Fashion Week Daily

image via Fashion Week Daily

"Journalism [graduate] school isn't necessary anymore. You can just jump into this business head first. Of course you'll need internship experience - you'll need to start at the bottom. But paying for grad school? Not necessary." Ms. Agins advised Lady Gray on the ins and outs of networking, finding a job, and stay relevant. Her most important piece of advice? Work hard and always be prepared. "Anna Wintour is never late. If an event started at 8, you can bet Anna was there at 7:45 sharp."

Agins isn't afraid to speak her mind and knows the importance of writing for the masses, not just those well educated on a subject. "Fashion deserves the same level of scrutiny as the auto or the food industry. It needs to be covered with seriousness," she told FashionWeekDaily.com.

To be further inspired by Teri Agins and her impeccable writing and research skills, pick up one of her books -

Hijaking the Runway: How Celebrities are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers 
or
The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever