André Leon Talley, the pioneering American fashion journalist, has died aged 73. A giant in personality, industry presence and height – he was 6ft 6in tall – Talley died after a heart attack, as was first reported by Air Mail, the digital publication founded by Graydon Carter.
Talley spent decades at Vogue, where he was the magazine’s director of fashion information from 1983 to 1987, then its first African-American male creative director from 1988 to 1995. Often considered a fashion icon, he was known for advocating for diversity in the fashion industry and championed many up-and-coming designers, paving the way for other top black stylists and designers to make their mark.
larger than life
“He was a very dear friend, and perhaps the greatest fashion historian of his generation. He was a fashion giant and a walking dictionary,” Carter told Business of Fashion.
In an open piece for The Washington Post in 2019, Talley wrote, “I’ve been working quietly to bring more novelty into the room: fashion editorials featuring young black models Naomi Campbell and Veronica Webb; a photo essay on New York’s flamboyant queer people of color prom culture, with members of the legendary House of LaBeija striking dance poses in broad daylight. I didn’t sound a megaphone on diversity, but I nurtured it where I could.
Talley hasn’t had it easy. His appointment to Conde Nast was met with racism from the fringes. In his 2018 documentary “The Gospel According to André”, the journalist confessed to being called Queen Kong by a Saint Laurent employee. “I never confront her because I internalized those things and kept them locked away,” Talley said.
Of her 2020 memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, Talley said in an interview with Essence magazine “I can only write this book based on who I am and where I come from, this very humble beginning in a city of tobacco from Durham, North Carolina.” A difficult childhood where he suffered abuse, Talley took refuge in his local library, where the glossy pages of Vogue and fashion magazines transported him to a glamorous and seemingly perfect world. It was Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief of American Vogue from 1963 to 1971, that he “learned to speak the language of style, fantasy and literature”.
Tom Ford told Vanity Fair that 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.
A quote in the New York Times from his memoir summed it up: “To my 12-year-old self, raised in the isolated South, the idea of a black man playing any role in this world seemed an impossibility. To think about where I come from, where we come from, in my life and where we are today, it’s amazing. And yet, of course, we still have a long way to go. »