New York — The New York Post literally hit below the belt Friday when it ran a picture of André Leon Talley with his fly open at the Marc Jacobs show.
This story first appeared in the September 23, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Was the ever-frisky tabloid — already touting the affair “Zippergate” — being playful or cruel? Witty or cheap?
WWD asked top editors around town whether they would ever run such a photo and their answers were unanimous: No. Editors labeled the Post’s decision everything from “really bad taste” to “unfathomable” to “nasty.”
Talley said he was initially upset about the picture but felt gratified that many people called him to express support. “I should have worn a big old diamond broach from Fred Leighton there,” he quipped. “The important thing is the fashion industry loves me and I love them. With everything going on in the world, what we have to do is be positive. I try to find the good in every collection. That person [Post correspondent Jared Paul Stern] must have no joy in his life.”
Talley said that from the moment he walked into the office Friday, the phone didn’t stop ringing with people ranging from Shelby Bryan to the deacon at his church telling him how badly parishioners felt about it. “Shelby Bryan told me it could happen to anyone. The deacon of my church called and said it seemed like Wall Street, and people could be so ruthless. He sent the love of the industry toward me.”
Talley explained the circumstances that led to the little indiscretion: “I was doing a big piece for November and was dressing Sandra Bullock for four hours at the hotel and getting her looks together for the shows. I was busy. My fly is not a zipper. It’s a button-fly front. It’s custom-made by Huntsman in England. It’s a five button-front fly and one button was unbuttoned.”
Meanwhile, Jared Paul Stern, the New York Post reporter whose column the picture appeared in, was pleased with the item, saying it struck a blow of sorts for the fashion proletariat. “Wasn’t it brilliant? I got a lot of thank-you’s from the fashionably oppressed. People who have gotten a dose of André’s high-handedness. I’ve gotten no complaints. I got some disbeliefs,” said Stern.
“I have nothing to do with the pictures. I just send in my copy. I was thrilled they got a picture. I was at the Marc Jacobs show and I was sitting directly across [from André]. I actually asked the people next to me if they were seeing what I was seeing. I was in the front row. The Post does that kind of thing all the time. If we have the pictures, we’ll run it. We’re not afraid to run the pictures. We’ve got full-color now.”
Col Allan, editor in chief of the Post, said he received no complaints. “It was just a bit of fun. You have to have a sense of humor.”
Other editors had a different view, though. Here’s their responses when asked if they’d run such an image.
Ed Kosner, editor in chief, The Daily News: “I can’t imagine doing it. Would they run a picture of Rupert [Murdoch] with his fly open? In all my years, I’ve never seen anything remotely like that. It’s unfathomable to me.”
Martha Nelson, managing editor of People: “At Time Inc., we have a longstanding ‘flies up’ policy. It goes back to the days of Henry Luce.”
Anna Wintour, editor in chief, Vogue: “I think it was really a cheap shot.”
Caroline Miller, editor in chief, New York Magazine: “It must have been a slow news day.”
Charla Lawhon, managing editor, In Style: “I don’t think it’s quite right for In Style.”
Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief, US Weekly: “Actually no. I just wouldn’t be comfortable with it. Some things are accidents and are really personal. I just wouldn’t have run it.”
Kate White, editor in chief, Cosmopolitan: “No. My feeling is that it’s one thing with celebrities who bring on their own awkward moments if they choose to wear something ridiculous. But to catch André at such an awkward moment…our readers would probably yell, ‘Foul!’”
Cindi Leive, editor in chief, Glamour: “No. When we publish our ‘Don’t’ pictures, these are pictures we make anonymous. We’re not in the business of trying to embarrass particular individuals.”
Lesley Jane Seymour, editor in chief, Marie Claire: “I wouldn’t. That’s a little over the top. It can happen to anybody. It has nothing to do with fashion week. It’s a very personal thing. It just underlines the idea that fashion can be very nasty, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Elizabeth Saltzman, fashion director, Vanity Fair: “Spy would have, but Vanity Fair would not have. It’s literally hitting below the belt. It’s embarrassing for the Post.”
Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure: “I certainly wouldn’t touch that. How many new enemies could I have?
Ingrid Sischy, editor in chief of Interview: “We would not run it. We would say there’s custard on your tie.”
Jane Pratt, editor in chief of Jane: “I’d never in a million years run it, and I would run just about anything. Running that is just really bad taste. I’m exploitive, but not that exploitive.”