André Leon Talley, the fashion icon who was once Vogue’s creative director and later its editor in the United States, has died. The news was first reported by TMZ and later confirmed via a statement posted to the official Met Gala Twitter page. Talley was 73.
“Fashion lost another giant today,” the Met Gala statement read. “André Leon Talley, thank you for your groundbreaking work that has inspired so many of us. Your inheritance will live forever. REST IN PEACE.”
Fashion lost another giant today. André Leon Talley, thank you for your groundbreaking work that has inspired so many of us. Your inheritance will live forever. RIP 🤍🕊 pic.twitter.com/zSu03DYGjG
– HF Twit Met Gala (@HFMetGala) January 19, 2022
Vogue and the Met Gala have a decades-long relationship, with the magazine’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour chairing the event since 1995 (except 1996 and 1998).
Talley was Vogue’s fashion news director from 1983 to 1987 and then its creative director from 1988 to 1995. He later sat on the judging panel for America’s next top model, appeared on empire and in the incarnation of the first big screen of Sex and the City. He also starred in Vogue-centric The September issue and a number of other documentaries, including The gospel according to André, The first Monday in May and Manolo: The boy who made shoes for lizards.
The fashion icon was born on October 16, 1948 in Washington, DC. He said he learned from his grandmother an “understanding of luxury” that was fundamental to his sense of style. He first discovered Vogue magazine at the age of 10.
Talley received a master’s degree in French literature from Brown. In 1974, he was apprenticed to the then Vogue editor Diana Vreeland at Met. She recommended Talley for a job at Interview magazine, which led him to Women’s clothing daily. He became the publication’s Paris bureau chief from 1975 to 1980. He also worked for New York Times before finally landing on Vogue. After more than a decade, Talley left Vogue in 1995 for a stay at W before returning to Vogue as editor-in-chief until 2013.
Talley had a huge influence in the fashion world. He was outspoken and often advocated new voices. He advised the Obama family on fashion, including introducing Michelle Obama to the designer of her first dress.
In a 2018 Washington Post essay on the cover of Beyoncé’s Vogue, Talley reflected on her journey:
I grew up in the separated south. For so long, no one held a prominent position in the world of fashion magazines – in the whole world – was black, whether male or female. But in 1988, Anna Wintour started as Vogue’s editor – in – chief, and when she hired me, even though I did not think much about it at the time, I also wrote history: I became the first African-American man to be appointed creative director of one of the leading fashion magazines in the world.
Suddenly I had the opportunity to offer a point of view in my new role that was different from that of Tony, the exclusive and often wealthy fashion editor. My perspective was based on a great deal of cultural knowledge that the old guard just could not have utilized. It had the quality that was so intangible in the fashion world: It was new.
Last year, France honored Talley with the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He told WWD that the day he was told he would receive the French honor was “the best day of my life.”
Out magazine named Talley one of his “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America” in 2007.