André Leon Talley, a pioneering fashion journalist, died on Tuesday in New York at the age of 73.
His death was announced on his Instagram page. There was no mention of the cause of death.
Talley, a former Vogue creative director and editor-at-large, shaped fashion and trends for decades but was never afraid to break the rules.
Talley was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Durham, North Carolina, by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, who he claims had a fashion sense and influenced his interest in the industry.
He claimed that as a child, he went to the Durham library and discovered Vogue, beginning his relationship with the publication as a devoted reader. Talley attended North Carolina Central University before receiving a master’s degree in French studies from Brown University in the early 1970s.
Working as Andy Warhol’s assistant put Talley in a powerful position in the worlds of art and culture. During that decade, he served as Women’s Wear Daily’s Paris bureau chief and contributed fashion coverage to The New York Times. He joined Vogue in 1983 as a fashion news director and later as a creative director.
He left Vogue in the 1990s, returned as editor-at-large, and left permanently in 2013 to pursue a position as editor-in-chief of Numéro Russia, a fashion publication, but left after a year. As Barack Obama ascended to the White House, Talley was tapped to advise the first family on fashion.
In the years that followed, he appeared as a judge on the reality television show “America’s Next Top Model” as the ultimate arbiter, as was his way.
Talley’s stare was intense and intimidating, his 6-foot-6-inch frame a foreshadowing of the wit and intellect behind his fashion critique.
His definition of influential fashion included breaking the rules, but only if you knew what the rules were.
Talley addressed the trend of men wearing rompers — the short version of a jumpsuit — in 2017, telling St. Louis Magazine, “The romper trend is not something that is universal.” I don’t see Kanye West, Drake, or Justin Bieber wearing rompers. Leonardo DiCaprio, for sure. “James Corden can rock a romper.”
Talley’s influence extended beyond the runway and the glossy pages: he appeared in the 2008 film adaptation of “Sex and the City,” the Vogue documentary “The September Issue,” and a documentary about the designer, “Valentino: The Last Emperor.” In addition, he was the subject of the 2018 documentary “The Gospel According to André.”
“Over the past five decades as an international icon, he was a close confidant of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, and he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing, and celebrating young designers,” his death was announced on social media.
His 11-room colonial in White Plains, New York, which was the subject of a legal dispute this year over who has ownership and residence rights, seemed to reflect Talley’s sense of style, which was both comfortable and grand. It included the sofa from Truman Capote’s apartment in United Nations Plaza.
The New York Times wrote in its review of his 2020 memoir, “The Chiffon Trenches,” that he grew up with Vogue’s description of Capote’s Black and White Ball, a society party supreme, as a refined world where “bad things never happened.”
Talley’s memoir was notable for disclosing details about his turbulent relationship with another Vogue fashion deity, Anna Wintour. However, it also provided a new understanding of his own childhood and attraction to fashion runways — as well as how race in America played a role in his fabric.
His tone was more than sarcastic. He used it to promote inclusion in an industry that has its own set of racial archetypes. He was a constant source of encouragement for Black culture’s underappreciated overachievement, particularly in the realm of style.
Rihanna. Janelle Monáe Washington, Kerry. Lupita Nyong’o When they walked the red carpet at the Met Gala, which he referred to as the “Super Bowl of fashion,” he cheered them on like a proud parent. “How lovely is your gown?” he exclaimed to Washington.
His sense of properness and pageantry in fashion dates back to his childhood, when he used to accompany his grandmother to church. He frequently emphasized that this was not just church, but Black church.