Pioneering Fashion Journalist André Leon Talley Has Passed Away

8 min read
Black and white photograph of André Leon Talley sitting in a studio wearing a robe

The industry remembers André Leon Talley, the exuberant fashion journalist who has passed away aged 73

Fashion legend André Leon Talley has passed away aged 73 after reportedly suffering a heart attack. Known for his colourful kaftans, voluminous capes and larger-than-life presence, the fashion journalist and former Vogue creative director was loved and respected by the industry not only for his fashion know-how but his commitment to diversifying the industry. André Leon Talley advocated for the inclusion of Black models in runway shows and magazines and often discussed the racism he faced as a Black man in the industry. In his memoir The Chiffon Trenches, he gave insight into being the only Black man to be appointed creative director at Vogue. “I never thought of myself as a Black man sitting at Vogue creating this historical moment. I thought of myself as an individual with talent and a person who had knowledge about fashion and style.”

The fashion journalist was raised by his grandmother in North Carolina and was bullied throughout his childhood; he sought refuge in the library at the college where his grandmother worked, where he would read fashion magazines. He moved to New York City in the 1970s and secured a job at Interview before going on to work at Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine. He was also featured as a judge in America’s Next Top Model and made appearances on Empire and SATC.

Throughout his trail-blazing career, André Leon Talley befriended designers, tastemakers, artists and celebrities including Andy Warhol, Diane Von Furstenburg, Mariah Carey, Karl Lagerfeld, Diana Ross and Oscar de la Renta. Tributes have flooded social media after news of his passing broke. Diane Von Furstenburg took to Instagram to share her thoughts, saying “No one saw the world in a more glamorous way than you did… no one was grander and more soulful than you were.” British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful shared “R.I.P dearest Andre. Without you, there would be no me. Thank you for paving the way” while Marc Jacobs wrote “You championed me and you have been my friend since my beginning… you and your passions were larger than life.”

Speaking on André Leon Talley’s influence on American pop culture and the fashion industry as a whole, Tom Ford told Vanity Fair “When he sits in the front row, to know that he understands what you’re saying, what you’re trying to put into pop culture—that is what you work for as a fashion designer.”

Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour said in a statement: “The loss of André is felt by so many of us today: the designers he enthusiastically cheered on every season, and who loved him for it; the generations he inspired to work in the industry, seeing a figure who broke boundaries while never forgetting where he started from.” She mentioned their rocky relationship before concluding “All I want to remember today, all I care about, is the brilliant and compassionate man who was a generous and loving friend to me and to my family for many, many years, and who we will all miss so much.”

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