SCAD welcomes two fashion giants

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By Laura Trask

Cape Wearing Andre Leon Talley

We all know that Savannah College of Art and Design is on par with some of the finest internationally recognized art schools, but this Lowcountry girl did not realize how prestigious the fashion design school at SCAD is. The student fashion show, which showcases the work of the top graduating seniors, is considered one of the premier student fashion shows in the country.

Andre Leon Talley and Manolo Blanik

This fact was made abundantly clear to me when I heard that Andre Leon Talley (a longtime member of SCAD’s Board of Trustees) was to give a lifetime achievement award to legendary shoe designer Manolo Blanik. Imagine two of the most influential fashion icons in the world right down the road at SCAD!

Now there are many colorful characters in the fashion world, but not a one has the enthusiasm, flamboyance, fashioncentricness of Andre Leon Talley. A cape-wearing giant in the fashion world, Talley stands at an impressive height of 6’7”. He has been Vogue’s editor-at-large for 25 years, often penning a witty, pithy column called “Life With Andre.”  Anna Wintour, Vogue Magazine’s Editor in Chief, considers Talley her main confidante. He always has the queen of fashion’s ear and can’t be missed, always dressed in an outlandish costume sitting at her side in the front row of the most important runway shows. Talley’s confidence makes him one of the few who can take on Wintour’s aloof and demanding personality and come out unscathed.

Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley

Talley was born in Durham, N.C., and raised primarily by his grandmother, whom he credits for giving him an “understanding of luxury.” After graduating from Brown University, Talley made his way to New York where he got his first job as Andy Warhol’s assistant. Warhol’s association with fashion was Talley’s entry to what would become a 30-year career. And it’s a career in which he has championed higher visibility for African Americans, both as models and designers.

Manolo Blanik — all a women has to do is hear his name and the shoe fantasies begin. I don’t know many women who don’t consider themselves shoe lovers, and I think we would all agree Blanik took shoe design and turned it into art, always keeping in mind that he is designing for a woman whose eye is focused on sophistication and elegance. Women all over the world have been known to line up in shoe departments with armloads of shoes waiting to have this visionary designer sign the soles of his creations with the intent of never wearing them, but displaying them proudly on some coffee table as a work of art!

A highlight of the two fashion dynamos’ visit to the Lowcountry was a conversation held at the Lucas Theatre led by Eric Wilson, fashion columnist  for The New York Times. The auditorium filled up quickly with fashion-obsessed women proudly sporting their “Manolos.”  The discussion focused on Talley and Blanik’s 40-year friendship, Blanik’s fashion inspiration, Yves St. Laurent and Blanik giving credit to Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in “Sex and the City” for bringing his shoes to a younger fan base.

This well deserved award to one of fashion’s superstars has to be one of the highlights of Blanik’s career as he joins the ranks of Diane Von Furstenberg and John Galliano, just to name a few. But already Andre Leon Talley is pondering what dazzling talent to bring to SCAD for next year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Between Andre’s connections and the amazing living fashions legends that are still producing outstanding collections to this day, it will be interesting to see whom he chooses for next year.