André Leon Talley, fashion industry icon and former creative director of Vogue, dead at 73
Talley began at Vogue in 1983, later serving as the fashion bible’s creative director and editor-at-large.
André Leon Talley, the visionary former creative director of Vogue magazine, has died. He was 73.
Talley’s literary agent David Vigliano confirmed Talley’s death to USA TODAY late Tuesday. Additional details were not immediately available.
Talley began at Vogue in 1983, later serving as the fashion bible’s creative director and editor-at-large. The 6-foot-6 fashion icon wrote two memoirs, “A.L.T.: A Memoir” in 2003 and “The Chiffon Trenches” in 2020, served as a judge over four seasons of “America’s Next Top Model” and was the center of the 2017 documentary, “The Gospel According to André.”
In “The Chiffon Trenches,” Talley opened up about how his time in fashion, sexual abuse and race impacted his life, career and friendships.
“I can only write this book based on who I am and where I came from, this very humble beginning in a tobacco town of Durham, North Carolina,” the ex-fashion editor told Essence at the time.
Talley was the first Black person to occupy his position at Vogue, and in his 2020 memoir, he described what he saw as his role in shaping Vogue, and, by extension, the fashion industry as a whole.
“I’m not belittling myself to say my strength was in my ability to be beside a small, great, powerful white woman and encourage her vision,” he wrote in his memoir of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, according to the New York Times.
Later, he would defend Wintour, crediting her, Diana Vreeland and Andy Warhol with shaping his career.
“This is not a vengeful ... tell-all,” Talley told Vulture in May 2020. “I will not criticize her. My book is an epistle to everyone that I love. It’s a love letter to Anna Wintour. I love her deeply.”
Talley told Essence he never shied away from his race in his life and career, despite the lack of diversity in the fashion world.
“I never separated from my Blackness,” he said. “My Blackness is what made me.”
Talley served as Vogue’s editor-at-large until 2013, when he left to pursue a new job as editor-in-chief of Russian style magazine Numero Russia. Talley was in the role for a year.
He told Women’s Wear Daily that leaving Vogue was a “tough decision.”
“I felt I needed more financial security as I go in my twilight age, a little bit more cash for mortgages and as I go into retirement,” he said. “I took the job because I love Russia and the salary was something fabulous. Money isn’t everything but it is when you start thinking about putting money away for your retirement days.”
Contributing: Rasha Ali