Andre Leon Talley, A Pure Soul in the Fashion Industry
Andre Leon Talley, the first American-African editor-at-large at Vogue magazine has died at 73. He was a fashion icon, creative director, stylist, and friend to many. He was famous for promoting emerging fashion designers, and especially African-American designers. Andre was a symbol of versatility in the fashion world.
Talley was born on Oct. 16, 1948, in Washington to Alma and William Carroll Talley, André was raised by his maternal grandmother Bennie Frances Davis, at the time she was a cleaning woman in the men's dormitory at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He was pretty much attached to her as he used to say after her death, “I miss her almost every day”. For Talley, his Grandmother was the first muse, his first source of love for fashion. It was through his grandmother's pristine home, which she kept fully cleaned as any southern black woman would, that taught Talley how to maneuver and endure the frighten world of fashion.
Andre started his fashion career in 1974 with an unpaid apprenticeship for Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because of his skills and talent, Vogue editor made arrangements for Andre to work at Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine.
Before joining Vogue as director Fashion News in 1983, Talley worked as writer and then as Paris Bureau Chief for Women’s Wear Daily. After being introduced to Johnson Publishing Company’s John H. Johnson and wife Eunice Johnson, Mr. Talley became a fashion editor for their legacy brand. Although his time in this role only lasted a year, he left a significant impact on EBONY’s caliber and standard of style. From 1983 to 1987, Andre was Fashion News Director for Vogue and from 1988 to 1995 he was the first ever African-American male creative director at Vogue. He was the only black person present in the first rows of the fashion shows. Talley said in one of the documentary, “You don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black & I’m Proud, you just do it and it impacts the culture”.
Apart from on-field work, Talley was also the author of three books including New York Times’ top seller list memoir: The Chiffon Trenches. France gave him the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his immense achievements in arts. Talley was also honored with North Carolina Award in 2021 for his services in Literature.
The larger-than-life fashion editor who at his tallest was 6 foot 6inches was famous for his colorful kaftans, which became a signature of his in the latter half of his career. Many of them were designed by his designer friends including Valentino, Ralph Rucci, Karl Lagerfeld, and Tom Ford. He also heavily favored Tom Ford suits, wearing one to the Met Gala for many years.
The world truly lost another great artist, philanthropist and fashion encyclopedia.