Fashion trailblazer and Vogue Creative Director, André Leon Talley has passed at age 73. Talley transitioned Tuesday at a hospital in White Plains, NY after being hospitalized for a variety of health complications. His death was confirmed by close friend and president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker.
An unmistakable force in fashion – Talley stood at an impressive 6’6″ tall – and climbed his way to the top of the fashion world, contrast to his beginnings in Durham, North Carolina. Graduating from North Carolina Central University with a degree in french studies and a master’s from Brown University, Talley seamlessly switched his love of the French language to haute couture fashion, by working for Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in 1974.
He has a resume that even Miranda Priestly would find envy in – working under Andy Warhol at Interview magazine and with John Fairchild at Women’s Wear Daily – only to become friends with Anna Wintour in the early 80’s, which led to his relationship with the iconic fashion publication Vogue magazine. He was key to the magazine’s visual direction all the way into the 90’s, starting as the news director and soon climbing to the coveted position of creative director from 1988 to 1995. He was the first African American male creative director at the publication.
Talley, an anomaly in a white-washed, rail-thin model railroaded field at the time, worked to make the runway and world of fashion more inclusive, by pushing for more representation on Vogue covers and by advocating for black designers. He received more mainstream attention when he joined Tyrah Banks’ wildly popular model search reality show America’s Next Top Model as a judge.
Walker, who was with Talley in his last days, was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “André Leon Talley was a singular force in an industry that he had to fight to be recognized in,”
Known for his capes, caftans and colossal sunglasses, Mr. Talley will live on as a fashion juggernaut who changed the face of fashion for all who met him and for those of color he paved a well-dressed road to walk down.
RIP André Leon Talley.
See some of Hollywoods reaction, below.