André Leon Talley, fashion icon and culture influencer, dies at 73
André Leon Talley, a former editor at large of Vogue who helped pave the way for Black fashion writers, designers and more, has died.
André Leon Talley, an influential fashion journalist and the former creative director and editor at large of Vogue magazine, has died at 73 in New York. His death was confirmed by many publications through his literary agent, David Vigliano.
Talley served as Vogue’s fashion news director from 1983 to 1987 and then its creative director from 1988 to 1995. Talley was also a judge on “America’s Next Top Model” and was profiled in a 2018 documentary by director Kate Novack titled “The Gospel According to André.” The film was screened in September 2017 at the Toronto Film Festival and was released in the U.S. in 2018.
Reviewer Katie Walsh called the film “a fascinating look at the self-invented André Leon Talley, a bold, daring creation who never let anything obstruct his passions, curiosities and whims.”
Talley often spoke of the challenges he had climbing the ranks of the fashion world as a larger Black man. Racism and other -isms were obstacles to success, and he addressed many of them in the film.
“How did I overcome that kind of racism? I internalized and struggled with it. ... I ignored it at the time... I had family and faith and [the late former Vogue editor] Mrs. [Diana] Vreeland and [the late former Women’s Wear Daily editor in chief] Mr. [John] Fairchild.
“It’s been through pluck, luck and survival skills.”
In a 2013 Vanity Fair feature, Talley was described as “perhaps the industry’s most important link to the past.” Designer Tom Ford told the magazine Talley was “one of the last great fashion editors who has an incredible sense of fashion history. … He can see through everything you do to the original reference, predict what was on your inspiration board.”
His relationship with Vogue started at Duke University, where his grandmother cleaned dorms; Talley would walk to campus in his youth to read the magazine.
Talley was also a familiar figure to TV audiences outside of the “America’s Top Model” circle having appeared on “Sex and the City” and “Empire.”
Raised in Durham, North Carolina, Talley worked assorted jobs before arriving in New York in the 1970s. He even worked as a park ranger in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, where he told visitors about slaves who built Ft. Washington and dressed up like a Civil War soldier, he told The Associated Press in 2003.
Talley also gained fame as an advisor to the Obama family on fashion. He introduced Michelle Obama to designer Jason Wu, who then created her inaugural gown.
Talley wrote numerous books, including two memoirs, and released “The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir” on May 19, 2020. In it, he discusses getting his start in New York City in the 1970s, his relationship with Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour and fighting racism in the fashion world.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.