André Leon Talley, the famed contributing editor to Vogue magazine, is the latest fashion icon who has declined to dress Melania Trump.
Talley, who is often referred to as “Monsieur Trump,” seemed to signal in an interview with The Daily Mail in November that he would stand by the future first lady, a longtime friend, calling her “a wonderful person to be with.” But Talley clarified to the The New York Times that his personal feelings about Melania Trump do not extend to her husband’s presidency, which he referred to as one long-lasting “dog whistle” for racism.
“People are really afraid of these dark, dark institutions of bigotry and anti-Semitism that have come out from under the rocks like creepy snakes and come up to rear their heads up like cobras,” Talley told the Times’ Maureen Dowd.
“This country has elected a president who is on audiotape saying I’m a star and I can do whatever I want with women, grab them in the vagina,” he added. “Dignity has gone out the door. He’s causing me much ire. He just said, ‘My cabinet has the highest I.Q.’ His cabinet of mostly white men. That’s a dog whistle.”
A common term in U.S. politics, a “dog whistle” refers to rhetoric that appears to be neutral but actually signals racist and xenophobic sentiments to its target audience through the use of coded language. When running against Barack Obama in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney claimed that he would be a better representative of U.S. interests to the United Kingdom because he shares the country’s “Anglo-Saxon heritage.” What Romney said emphasized that he’s white and Obama is not.
According to Talley, when Trump says his predominantly white and male Cabinet is more intelligent and qualified than previous administration’s, the president-elect is actually saying that “white men” are more intelligent and qualified. More than 53 percent of positions in Obama’s administration were filled by women and minorities, according to a 2015 survey from University of California, Berkeley.
Talley added that Trump’s famous campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is also a hat tip to racism. “A lot of people think that means make America white again,” he said.
The Vogue editor, who previously referred to Melania Trump as “soignée and polished,” first met her while on assignment for the esteemed fashion publication. Although Talley frequently advised Michelle Obama on her wardrobe, even introducing her to designer Jason Wu, who would help the first lady become a beloved fashion icon, he won’t offer the same service to the Trump White House.
Following Talley’s favorable statements about Melania Trump, colleagues emailed to chastise him for joining the “Evil Empire.”
“She’s a nice person,” Talley clarified to the Times. “I do not endorse Trumpism on any level. … You make the choice to be in Trumpland or you make the choice to eject yourself from the horror of Trumpland. I’ve made my choice not to be part of Trumpland.”
Not everyone in the fashion world has given the Trumps the cold shoulder, however.
Diane von Furstenberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Carolina Herrera, and Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone have all declined to join the boycott. So have out designers Calvin Klein and Thom Browne.
The fashion movement against Trump is being led by designers such as Sophie Theallet, one of Michelle Obama’s favorites. Theallet wrote in an open letter that she did not support Donald Trump’s “rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia” and would not work with his family. She is joined in the boycott by Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Humberto Leon, Christian Siriano, and Derek Lam.