André Leon Talley, former Vogue editor and a fashion force to be reckoned with, died at the age of 73. According to reports, he passed away at a New York hospital on Tuesday.
With early roles at magazines including Interview Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, and the New York Times, the former creative director of Vogue – who was the first black person to be appointed the role – had an incredibly remarkable career spanning four decades.
Talley, who was born in 1948 and grew up in Jim Crow-era North Carolina, was a longtime advocate of fashion, recounting to the Guardian in 2020 stories of students at his university stoning him as he crossed campus on Sundays to purchase Vogue. But vists to his local library to read copies of Vogue magazine came to symbolise a world where ‘bad things never happened.’
Talley was a pioneering personality in the fashion industry, as known for his cutting comments and flamboyance as he was for the statement kaftans, hats, and robes he regularly donned. But, despite his personal achievements and style, Talley is most recognised for his commitment to promoting Black models, ensuring that more were sent down the catwalk at major fashion weeks and featured in magazines such as Vogue. The style veteran became renowned for his efforts to both create more space and opportunity for people of colour in fashion and contribute to the community that raised him, all while being the first African-American man to become a figure of authority in the fashion industry.
The news of Talley’s death comes far too soon after the death of Virgil Abloh in November, another pioneering Black man who significantly altered the fashion industry. Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of love and affection on social media, especially from Black creatives, both emerging and established, who see Talley as a role model. Talley, like Abloh, believed in leading with compassion in a profession that is notorious for anything but.
Actress, Kerry Washington, paid tribute to Talley on Instagram, writing: ‘Oh Andre! Darling, Heaven is not ready for you!!!!!! The whole afterlife is going to be just too fabulous now.
‘Ugh! You blessed us! Sir! You blessed us with your charm and wit and your taste for the exceptional. You will shine so brightly from the heavens that we will know what true stardom looks like. And we will gaze up at you always. In awe. And with gratitude. Rest In Peace.’
‘Andre Leon Talley, thank you for being that light of hope for us gay, Black boys in the south who read Vogue and swished too much and talked too much and loved fashion too much and wanted too much from a world that didn’t know what to do with us. Rest in power,’ wrote Zach Stafford, editor in chief of The Advocate.
Culture critic Evette Dionne wrote: ‘An icon. I hope heaven looks just like this for André Leon Talley. Full of joy, full of beauty, full of kindness.’
Designer and close friend Diane von Furstenberg wrote: ‘Good bye darling André … no one saw the world in a more elegant and glamorous way than you did … no one was more soulful and grander than you were …the world will be less joyful now. I have loved you and laughed with you for 45 years…. I will miss your loud screams and your loyal friendship…I love you soooo much [sic].’
Talley’s work has left an indelible mark on the fashion industry, and he and his legacy will not be forgotten.