FASHION GIANT ANDRE LEON TALLEY’S GIANT LEGACY
André Leon Talley, the towering former creative director and editor at large of Vogue magazine, has died. He was 73.
Talley was raised n North Dakota by his grandmother, growing up in America’s south he experienced racism regularly due to segregation that still existed in the 1950’s. He began his love of fashion when he discovered Vogue magazine in his local library when he was just 9 or 10 years old.
After graduating high school in 1966 he got a place at North Carolina Central University where he graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor degree in French Literature. He went on to study at Brown University where he earned a Masters degree.
In the early 1970s he took on unpaid position working for former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From here he was introduced to artist Andy Warhol and began working at his iconic magazine Interview. Talley later worked at W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily serving as their Paris Bureau Chief.
In 1983 he joined Vogue magazine as the Fashion News Editor, and later he moved into the position of Creative Director. From 1995 he served as an Editor at Large at Vogue, as he took on challenges with other publications alongside his work with magazine he fell in love with as a child. He left the publication in 2013.
He worked closely with editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, detailing the racism and humiliation he faced from her in his memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. Talley claimed, in a memoir released in 2020, that he was left with ‘huge emotional and psychological scars’ from his friendship with the notoriously icy editor. Talley served as a judge on cycles 14-17 of America’s Next Top Model and made a cameo as himself in the Sex and the City movie. As the subject of the documentary The Gospel According to André, Talley’s life moved everyone around him, from Tom Ford to Whoopi Goldberg sharing the impact Talley had on fashion and American culture.
He was the receptionist at Interview magazine under Andy Warhol; the Paris bureau chief of Women’s Wear Daily under John Fairchild; the creative director and editor at large of Vogue under Anna Wintour. He helped dress Michelle Obama when she was first lady, was an adviser and a friend to the designer Oscar de la Renta, and became a mentor to the supermodel Naomi Campbell. He cast Ms. Campbell as Scarlett O’Hara in a shoot for Vanity Fair that reimagined “Gone With the Wind” with Black protagonists long before fashion woke up to its own racism.
“To my 12-year-old self, raised in the segregated South, the idea of a Black man playing any kind of role in this world seemed an impossibility,” he wrote in his memoir. “To think of where I’ve come from, where we’ve come from, in my lifetime, and where we are today, is amazing. And, yet, of course, we still have so far to go.”