André Leon Talley, the larger-than-life former Vogue editor, has died at 73. Talley was a man of extravagant capes and friends in design studios from New York to Paris—Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Diane von Furstenberg, Karl Lagerfeld, and many more. Many of his fashion friends and beyond took to social media to express their grief, and a theme emerged. The “pharaoh of fabulosity,” as another Vogue staffer once dubbed. Talley, was also the industry’s most prominent champion and booster, the first editor backstage, quick with encouraging advice or a course correction.
His enthusiasm was prodigious.
André Leon Talley was born in Washington, D.C. in 1948 and was raised by his grandmother, a cleaning woman at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, during Jim Crow. He went to Brown University, where he earned his master’s degree in French literature. “I loved my home and my family,” he told Vogue when the documentary of his life was released. “I went to school and to church, and I did what I was told, and I didn’t talk much. But I knew life was bigger than that. I wanted to meet Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, Naomi Sims, Pat Cleveland, Edie Sedgwick, and Loulou de la Falaise. And I did. And I never looked back.”
Tally’s Start In Fashion
Talley got his start in fashion with an unpaid apprenticeship to Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, a position he seemed to have willed into being. He once reported that his bedroom “was wallpapered with images out of Diana Vreeland’s Vogue.” From the Met, Talley went on to work at Andy Warhol’s Interview, Women’s Wear Daily, and the New York Times, before taking the fashion news director job at Vogue in 1983. Anna Wintour named him creative director in 1988, and aside from a three-year run when he contributed to W magazine from Paris, he continued to work at Vogue until 2013. Here is our review of one of his last campaigns with Uggs.
“Yet it’s the loss of André as my colleague and friend that I think of now; it’s immeasurable” said Anna Wintour.
Breaking Traditions At Vogue
He was the first Black man to hold his position at Vogue, and often he was the only Black person in the front row at fashion shows. “He was like the Black Rockette,” said Whoopi Goldberg, pointing out the whiteness of the industry in the 2018 biopic The Gospel According to André. In that documentary, Talley says, “you don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black, and I’m proud,’ you just do it, and it impacts the culture.” Nonetheless, he was the first to write about LaQuan Smith and other designers of color. André’s magic was that he did not look like anyone else; fashion was not full of six-foot-seven, lavishly-dressed Black men who talk in lyrical stanzas. His appearance in the front row or on the red carpet was always remarkable!
André Leon Talley Legacy
He was a trailblazer, a legend, and an icon. His career trajectory is well-known, working with a delectable mix of it-people and it-publications! He apprenticed for Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, worked with Andy Warhol at Interview, was the Paris bureau chief of Women’s Wear Daily, and became Vogue’s first African American male creative director in 1988. May we all continue to remember and honor the powerful legacy of one of the most influential fashion journalists!
Mr. Talley, thank you for paving the way for other people of color! C‘est à plus tard, never a goodbye!