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Celebrating the life of Vogue’s legendary former creative director and editor-at-large

André Leon Talley, a force of nature in the fashion industry, died at age 73 on January 18th, 2022 after suffering a heart attack. In his own words, Talley said he would like to be remembered as “someone who made a difference in the lives of young people” hoping that he “nurtured someone and taught them to pursue their dreams and their careers, to leave a legacy.”

Dubbed by one of Vogue’s editors as the “pharaoh of fabulosity”, Talley was an unforgettable icon of the industry. As Vogue’s first Black creative director, he was a pioneer in making the fashion industry more inclusive and accepting of black designers and models. In reference to the progress he encouraged, he said, “you don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black and I’m proud,’ you just do it and it impacts the culture.” 

Talley was born on October 16, 1948 in Washington, D.C. and was raised in the South during the Jim Crow Era by his grandmother who worked as a cleaning woman. He remembered his upbringing positively, commenting: “I know what it is like to be brought up with unconditional love. In my life that came from my grandmother”. 

Talley’s first fashion inspiration came from church and then, at age nine, he discovered the wonder of Vogue magazine, for which he would later go on to work. He described Vogue during that period as his, “escape hatch” and “gateway to the world”. He credits the magazine for his introduction to the world of fashion, literature, art and entertainment. 

He went on to attend Brown University, an Ivy League institution, where he received a scholarship to study French literature for his master’s degree. Talley then moved to New York and took on his first position within the industry as an apprentice to Diana Vreeland, former Vogue Editor-in-Chief, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. His career in fashion spanned over five decades and it was entwined with the peak of Vogue magazine. During his years there, Talley took on many roles, most notably that of creative director, and editor-at-large. 

In the words of Talley’s friend, famed Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour, “The loss of André is felt by so many of us today: the designers he enthusiastically cheered on every season, and who loved him for it; the generations he inspired to work in the industry, seeing a figure who broke boundaries while never forgetting where he started from; those who knew fashion, and Vogue, simply because of him; and, not forgetting, the multitude of colleagues over the years who were consistently buoyed by every new discovery of André’s, which he would discuss loudly, and volubly—no one could make people more excited about the most seemingly insignificant fashion details than him.”

André Leon Talley’s impact on the fashion world will not be forgotten. To learn more about him, watch his documentary ‘The Gospel According to André’ or read his 2020 memoir ‘The Chiffon Trenches’.

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Cecilia Lux

St Andrews '24

I'm a second year student at St Andrews studying Management. I love all things fashion and art!
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