André Leon Talley, fashion icon and the first Black man to secure the role of Vogue creative director, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 18 at the age of 73 in White Plains, N.Y. 
Photo: André Leon Talley Instagram @andreltalley

André Leon Talley, fashion icon and the first Black man to secure the role of Vogue creative director, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 18 at the age of 73 in White Plains, N.Y. Photo: André Leon Talley Instagram @andreltalley


André Leon Talley, Fashion Icon and Journalist

Fashion mourned the loss of icon André Leon Talley on Jan. 18 as the world learned of the journalist and former Vogue creative director’s unexpected death at the age of 73 in White Plains, N.Y. In 1983, Talley began his tenure at Vogue as the publication’s fashion news director. As the first Black man to hold Vogue’s creative-director position, to which he was appointed in 1988 by the fashion authority’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, Talley forged a path in the industry that included work with Interview, The New York Times, W Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily.

Talley last worked for Vogue in 2013 as the publication’s editor-at-large and had published “The Chiffon Trenches” in 2020, which followed 2003’s “A.L.T.: A Memoir” and 2005’s “ALT 365+.” In an obituary piece honoring one of the magazine’s own, written by Runway Director Nicole Phelps, Vogue noted that Talley passed unexpectedly due to a heart attack.

“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 volubly—no one could make people more excited about the most seemingly insignificant fashion details than him. Even his stream of colorful faxes and emails were a highly anticipated event, something we all looked forward to,” said Wintour, who now serves as Condé Nast's global content adviser. “Yet it’s the loss of André as my colleague and friend that I think of now; it’s immeasurable. He was magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny—mercurial, too. Like many decades-long relationships, there were complicated moments, but all I want to remember today, all I care about, is the brilliant and compassionate man who was a generous and loving friend to me and to my family for many, many years and who we will all miss so much.”

Talley was born in Washington, D.C., in 1948. He was raised by his grandmother in Durham, N.C. At Brown University, Talley earned a master’s degree in French literature. In his own words, during a VideoFashion interview, Talley had mentioned that former Vogue Editor-in-Chief Diana Vreeland was his idol, and he would read the magazine religiously in his youth. Vreeland and Talley eventually worked together when the journalist volunteered to work at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art within the organization’s Costume Institute, where his idol served as a special consultant.

“My grandmother and Mrs. Vreeland had similar ways of appreciating luxury because they both believed in the importance of its most essential underpinning: polish,” Talley said in “A.L.T.: A Memoir.”

During his career, Talley was also featured in a number of media appearances including his role as a judge on “America’s Next Top Model” and in “The September Issue,” a 2009 documentary that afforded an insider’s view of Vogue’s most-anticipated volume of the year. In 2018, the biopic “The Gospel According to André” celebrated Talley.

“I think that when I am ready to pass on, I will see both of my mothers: the grandmother who raised me and the spiritual mother who helped make my dreams come true,” wrote Talley in “A.L.T.: A Memoir.” “I can imagine that my grandmother will have come from the beauty parlor with a halo of perfect bluish snow-white curls, and Diana Vreeland will be waiting in her red Georgian dwarf armchair—her favorite chair from her hill-red seraglio—with a decanter of vodka and two small glasses on the table beside her. In her hands she'll hold a book for the two of us to read together, and when she first sees me, she'll smile, and say, ‘Right-o André, let's get crackin'!’”