Andre Leon Talley, the fashion journalist and commentator who died last week, was one of the industry’s great characters. 

His height was 6ft 7in. He was dressed in Tom Ford kaftans, floor-length furs and an accent from the South, and had a loud laugh and Southern accent.

He was not like many fashion journalists, but he was close to the designers that he covered. 

The big beasts – Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace – were all close acquaintances (though as Andre details in his memoir The Chiffon Trenches, he was hurt when some of these friendships turned out to be less deep than he had thought).

Andre Leon Talley, the fashion journalist and commentator who died last week, was one of the industry’s great characters

Just as unusual for a fashion journalist, his death has been covered extensively by the world’s media. Andre’s massive persona and writing skills were also part of the story.

This is why the fashion world has an extraordinary number of exaggerated personalities like Andre. Its functioning is based on appearances. To conjure a desire for high-end clothes, it relies heavily on smoke and mirrors. So while there are naturally plenty of low-key grafters in the business (and very successful ones at that), they don’t engender the same fascination. They are not as well known. Fame is an effective selling tool.

Andre does not have to be a stereotypical image-driven person to shine in an age where appearances are everything. Lagerfeld is one of fashion’s most celebrated figures. This was partly because he became larger than life. His powdered hair, high collars, fabulous jewellery and leather gloves – and the black-clad entourage that accompanied him like a cloud of gnats – constantly reinforced his own myth.

Marc Jacobs owns his silver nail polish, diamond studs, and pearl necklaces. Donatella with her perma-tan and blonde hair. Anna Wintour’s flawless hair and stunning sunglasses. They’re all as instantly recognisable as a Coca-Cola can.

Andre Leon Talley is a wonderful creation. He was a compassionate and kind person. There was only one Andre – and at 73, he died too young.

An appropriate tribute to April, the trailblazer

My Instagram feed is currently full of RIP messages – Andre’s death provoked hundreds of them. The tributes are not the only thing on social media. I always feel a little disconcerted when I see what are in effect death notices juxtaposed next to an interior designer’s enviable sitting room, an influencer prancing around in their newest look, or an ad for some kitchen utensil. I know I’m shown whatever the algorithm deems will interest me. It seems a bit disrespectful.

Contrary to that, the bottle of champagne I saw dotted above the grave of April Ashley (transgender model and lover), made me feel quite different. A fitting tribute, though, it was an unusual sight.

Lockdown bubbles offer some consolation

It makes me wonder how champagne came to be the drink of choice for celebrations. Do you think it is because champagne has always represented good times? You can’t. In any event, champagne sales rose 32 percent last year. 

Since causes for celebration weren’t landing thick and fast in 2021 – and for much of that time parties (other than at Downing Street) were forbidden – could it be that champagne is now becoming the drink of consolation?

Vicky, bare-faced Vicky keeps it real

In pre-publicity for the tonight’s new ITV drama Trigger Point, Vicky McClure reveals she is appearing without any make-up.

In the name of authenticity, she decided her character – ex-military bomb disposal operator Lana Washington – wouldn’t make ‘a big deal about how she looks’. I’m sure a bare-faced Vicky still looks better than most people in full slap, but her announcement will certainly make her appearance a bigger deal than it would be if she hadn’t told us in advance.

Many of us will now be looking at her screen to see her skin and her acting.

In reality, the military have relaxed the rules around women’s appearance. You can wear ‘inconspicuous’ nail polish and lipstick. The hair rules for this year have evolved to accommodate all sorts of styles and sophisticated plaits. False lashes are still not allowed. And men have to remain bare-faced – other than the daubs of camouflage.

Politicians don’t get rules of succession

A succession plan is a hallmark of a strong business. The idea of having a succession program in politics seems like a total anathema. Is there any Prime Minister who has ever considered the possibility of an alternative to his or her current prime minister? 

If Boris Johnson keeps his job, it will be in great part thanks to the fact that there is no obvious successor – which is nothing new.

If you look back at the past decade, it is clear that no triumphant transfer has occurred within any political party.

Tony Blair’s handover to Gordon Brown was short-lived. Theresa May was elected to replace David Cameron. This chaotic leadership battle led us towards the current faltering Johnson. 

A total government change seems like the best option. That is the last thing any prime Minister wants after their term is done.

Ukraine’s identity is worth defending

Some years back, I went to Kiev. I was astonished at the city’s poverty and emptiness. It turned out to be a very wrong impression. You will find beautiful architecture and delicious food.

There’s a large, young, optimistic, culture-loving population determined to make the best of their lives. 

Many of the people that I knew were Ukrainian-born, many times right before their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. 

My encounters with older Ukrainian people who have lived under Soviet control for years revealed a complicated relationship to their Ukrainian identities.

Despite seemingly endless conflict with Putin, they all seemed utterly determined to remain positive about their country’s future – a spirit they will need today as much as ever, with 100,000 Russian troops amassing on the border.