André Leon Talley, the iconic former creative director and editor-at-large of Vogue magazine, died Tuesday in White Plains, New York. Talley was 73.

Talley, whose towering height (six-foot-six) and equally large personality made him a fashion legend, had been suffering from ongoing health issues. According to Vogue, he died from a heart attack. Talley left no next of kin.

In a statement, Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, said, André Leon Talley was a singular force in an industry that he had to fight to be recognised in.”

Anna Wintour, Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement, “Its the loss of André as my colleague and friend that I think of now; its immeasurable. He was magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny—mercurial, too. Like many decades-long relationships, there were complicated moments, but 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.”

Fashion Director for Vogue From 1983-1987

Talley, who also served as the fashion director for Vogue from 1983-1987, became synonymous with the magazine and his long friendship with Anna Wintour. This relationship had become fractious in recent years.

I have huge emotional and psychological scars from my relationship with this towering and influential woman. Simple human kindness. No, she is not capable,” Talley wrote of Wintour in his New York Times bestselling  2020 memoir The Chiffon Trenches.

Talley told the Guardian, “I am 71 years old, and I take my story with me wherever I go. The past is always in the present.”

Talley, who worked at Vogue until 2013, was the first Black man to hold the position of creative director at the magazine. According to Vogue, Talley spoke of his impact, saying, You dont get up and say, look, Im Black and Im proud,you just do it and it impacts the culture.”

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‘Fashion Can be an Emotional Experience’

While Talley’s immense love of fashion was legendary, the industry did not always embrace him. Talley wrote that he faced subtle casual jabs that white people inherently make towards people of color.”

A black man goes through life realising, There but for the grace of God go I. Racism moves under the epidermis as a constant, constant reality,” Talley wrote in the introduction to his 2020 memoir.

People have done things to me that I have forgiven them for,” Talley wrote. “There are things in the book that you cant imagine — the racism, everything. You dont even understand how much Ive gone through…”

Fashion can be an emotional experience,” he wrote.

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In the 2018 documentary, The Gospel According to André, designer Tom Ford said of Talley, André is one of the last of those great editors who knows what they are looking at, knows what they are seeing, knows where it came from. André tosses out all these different words and hes so big and so grand, a lot of people think, This guy is crazy, but its a fabulous insanity.”

Writing of Talley’s death on Instagram, Ford wrote, “ I adored André. He was brilliant…just when he would say something so completely shocking and worthy of Marie Antoinette, he would then counter it with a statement so sharp and right on that it reminded you of exactly why he was able to have come so far in the world.”

 

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Hes the Nelson Mandela of couture, the Kofi Annan of what you got on,” musician will.i.am said in The Gospel According to André.

Talley became a mentor to many fledgling designers, who later would become fashion heavyweights, including Zac Posen. Talley became a ubiquitous presence in the front row of fashion shows and later added his stature to programs like America’s Next Top Model. Talley was also featured in the acclaimed 2009 documentary The September Issue.

Talley developed a reputation for his love of luxury and was labelled by the Guardian as a “prince of excess.” Talley said, This refined, dandy lifestyle: its not about glamour – its self-respect, a standard… I may have had moments of hauteur. H-A-U-T-E-U-R. But I was never a snob.”

Friends and fans alike took to social media to mourn Talley’s death.

Bette Midler wrote, “Im sorry to say the extraordinary #AndreLeonTalley has died. He was such a force, & believed in the magic of Fashion & its illusions with all his being.  His life was a saga of great highs, great lows, the dramatic, the ridiculous, and the endless pursuit of beauty.  Love & RIP.”

Designer Carolina Herrera wrote, André Leon Talley was the most passionate critic in fashion. He was the fashion historian of our day. He was unique, and he will never be replaced by anyone in the world. He was my dear friend and I loved him.”

Good bye darling André,”  designer Diane Von Furstenberg wrote on Instagram.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 so much.”

 

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Ralph Toledano, the president of the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, described Talley as “a phenomenal journalist, who amazed you with his analysis of fashion and the whole history of fashion in general.”

Pierpaolo Piccioli, Valentinos creative director, said, Andre was an icon of fashion, who has truly marked and accompanied, with his progressive vision, a unique and magnificent era. He will continue to inspire the fashion world and all that revolves around it. He will continue to live in our hearts and memories.”

During his lifetime, Talley never publicly stated he was gay, instead telling Wendy Williams during an interview, “No, I’m not heterosexual; I’m saying I’m fluid in my sexuality, darling.” In a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, Talley said that he rejected the “label” but did admit to “very gay experiences.”

“I swear on my grandmothers grave that I never slept with a single designer in my life. Never, ever desired, never was asked, never was approached, never, ever bought, in my entire career. Never. Not one. Skinny or fat. Never,” Talley said.

 

Born in 1948, Talley told Vanity Fair, “I had a very strict upbringing, almost puritanical… I was in my grandmothers house, and I respected that!”

Talley attended North Carolina Central University, majoring in French studies and later received his masters degree from Brown University. He moved to New York City in the 1970s, where he served as an unpaid apprentice to fashion editor Diana Vreeland.

Talley moved on to work at Interview magazine and became friends with Andy Warhol. Talley also worked for Women’s Wear Daily and The New York Times and was the author of several books later in life.

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,”  Talley wrote.

To think of where Ive come from, where weve come from, in my lifetime, and where we are today, is amazing. And, yet, of course, we still have so far to go.”

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