As New York Fashion Week kicks off at Lincoln Center, Andre Leon Talley, Vogue contributing editor and editor-at-large of Russian style magazine Numero Russia, says he's always looking for "unexpected surprises and the fireworks at the great guns."
Raised in Durham, North Carolina, by his grandmother, Talley realized the power of fashion after observing the fashion sense of women in his family.
"Church clothes were our couture clothes," he told Here & Now. "In the weeks they worked hard, they were domestic maids, and on Sundays, everyone had gloves, everyone had polished shoes and bags, hats, and everything was just fabulous when they went to church. And that's where I got my first awareness of how powerful fashion was."
The variety of people on the runway is lacking in many respectsAndre Leon Talley
"Not necessarily in that order, but those are the ones that always give me something that I find very, very strong. It's a certain kind of woman that each designer dresses, but each designer has something that really pushes fashion forward for me," Talley said.
While the Fashion Week pieces are priced well out of reach of most Americans, high fashion can be affordable, Talley said. Top designers have second lines and it's not uncommon for designers to create "pop-up collections" for stores such as Zara, H&M and Target.
"I once saw a girl at a fabulous party and she was wearing a dress that I thought was so Audrey Hepburn from the '60s — little black dress with a full skirt, no sleeves — very chic, very simple. I said, 'Where did you get that dress? It's extraordinary!' And she said, 'I paid $50 for it at Target.'"
Another disconnect between the runway and most Americans is weight — most of the models are rail-thin. But there is a movement to have not all the models look underfed, Talley said.
"There should be room in the fashion world for people of many sizes," Talley said, noting there should be more racial diversity as well. "The variety of people on the runway is lacking in many respects."
This segment aired on September 5, 2013.