Wednesday, January 19, 2022

André Leon Talley, Fashion Journalism Icon and Former Editor-at-Large at Vogue, Dies at 73

Photo Courtesy Andre Talley ©Intstagram

André Leon Talley, the influential fashion voice that helped shape a generation’s views of what, and how,
clothes should be worn, is dead at 73.

First reported by TMZ, his death was due to complications related to Covid, according to his friend Dr. Yvonne Cormier, who talked to the Houston Chronicle reporter Joy Sewing about their 45-year friendship.

Born in Washington, DC, but sent to live with his grandmother — a cleaning lady at Duke University — when he was two-years old, Talley rose from meager beginnings to become the first black male creative director at Vogue magazine in the 1980s.

From 1987 to 1995 he, along with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour shared a seemingly symbiotic relationship that helped define high fashion at the time. The relationship persisted even when Talley, who received a master’s degree in French Literature at Brown and once dreamed of teaching, left Vogue and moved to Paris to work for W Magazine.

Talley returned to Vouge in 1998 as editor-at-large, but with cracks forming in his once unbreakable relationship with Wintour, he departed in 2013 to seek other opportunities.

"I had suddenly become too old, overweight and uncool for Anna Wintour," he told People of the divide. "I don’t think she understands what she does to people."

In addition to being a fashion icon, Talley worked tirelessly to increase diversity in the industry. He was proud of the change he was able to oversee during his time at the top.

"I grew up in the segregated South. For so long, no one who had a position of prominence in the world of fashion magazines — in the world at large — was Black, be they man or woman,” he wrote reminiscing on his legacy in the Washington Post in 2018. “But in 1988, Anna Wintour started as Vogue's editor in chief, and when she hired me, though I thought little of it at the time, I made history, too: I became the first African American man named creative director of one of the premier fashion magazines in the world."

Talley, who once described his sexuality as “fluid” was also a titan in the LGBTQ+ community. In 2007, he was ranked 45th in Out magazine's "50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America."

He at one timed served as a stylist for former United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during their time in the White House.

Awarded the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France in 2020 for his contribution to the arts and the North Carolina Award the following year for his role in literature, Talley published several books in addition to his fashion journalism. The last was 2020’s “The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir.”

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