By Michelle Crowe
The Chiffon Trenches, Penguin Random House 2020
Have you passed any time at home reading The Chiffon Trenches? I must confess I have not, which I’m going to pin on my current lack of concentration, not disinterest.
As a young fashion assistant in 1990s New York, I was a bit of an editor fan girl. Riding in an elevator in the old Conde Nast building with Polly Mellen, packing up an outfit that for some reason Nina Garcia had sent home from Paris with my boss to be messengered back to Elle, taking a breakfast makeup lesson from Trish McEvoy with the best beauty editor ever, Jean Godfrey-June. Every fleeting interaction with these creative geniuses was heaven.
Polly Mellen on the move.
Andre Leon Talley was always front row, always animated and charming. As a friendly Midwesterner, who was often told to tamp down my smiles and enthusiasm, I found this endearing. His 2003 memoir, A.L.T., is one of my personal favorites. It came out a few months after an odd sighting of Andre and Anna Wintour, who were seated together at a positively brilliant Ralph Lauren show. Held at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, it was a star-studded crowd, with all the big editors and buyers, other designers like Vera Wang, it girls and celebrities.
A Ralph Lauren Spring 2003 look.
Anna’s son, Charlie Schaffer, was a teenager at the time and seated to her right in the front row. He was also quite clearly bored by the whole thing. He slouched and yawned and possibly talked on the phone. On her other side was Mr. Talley, taking in each look with appreciation and decades of knowledge. That rather sullen young man grew up to be a doctor battling Covid-19, which just goes to show that no one should judge a young person on a random September night, especially a visiting Chicago editor who was still star struck eight years into covering shows. That’s as dishy as I’ll ever get, but apparently half a century in fashion leaves one with some tea to spill and it’s between these pages.
While we wait for the shows to begin again, The Chiffon Trenches and a fresh pot will pass the time nicely.
A.L.T., Random House 2003.