André Leon Talley, Vogue’s legendary former creative director and editor-at-large, has died. He was 73 years old at the time.
Talley’s literary agent, David Vigliano, confirmed Talley’s death to USA Today late Tuesday, but provided no other information.
Talley was a well-known fashion writer who worked for Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily and was a fixture in the front row of New York and European fashion shows. With his size, tremendous influence in the fashion industry, and striking features, Talley cut an intimidating presence everywhere he went at 6-feet-6 inches tall.
Talley was characterized as “arguably the industry’s most significant connection to the past” in a 2013 Vanity Fair spread headlined “The Eyeful Tower.” Talley, according to designer Tom Ford, is “one of the last great fashion editors with an outstanding grasp of fashion history.” He can observe everything you do and guess what was on your inspiration board by comparing it to the original reference.”
“No one perceived the world in a more glamorous manner than you did,” designer Diane von Furstenberg said on Instagram, praising Talley. There was no one greater or more spiritual than you.”
“A.L.T.: A Book,” Talley’s memoir from 2003, centered on two of the most influential people in his life: his maternal grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, and late fashion editor Diana Vreeland.
“Bennie Frances Davis may have seemed to many others as a regular African American domestic worker on an average day, but I, who could see her soul, could also see her secret: that she wore an invisible diadem even though she wore a hair net and work clothes to scrub toilets and floors,” he wrote.
Talley’s association with Vogue began at Duke University, where his grandmother worked as a dorm cleaner; as a child, he would walk to campus to read the magazine.
Talley was also a famous face on television, having appeared on “Sex and the City,” “Empire,” and as a judge on “America’s Top Model.”
Talley was born in Durham, North Carolina, and worked in a variety of occupations before moving to New York in the 1970s, when she met Vreeland and formed a bond with her that lasted until her death in 1989.
In 2003, Talley told The Associated Press that he worked as a park ranger in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, where he informed tourists about the slaves who constructed Fort Washington and dressed up as a Civil War soldier.
Talley was hired at Vogue in 1983 by Editor in Chief Anna Wintour after stints at Interview and Women’s Wear Daily, and was named its creative director in 1988.
In 2020, Talley released “The Chiffon Trenches,” a book that includes juicy behind-the-scenes stories about Wintour and other fashion giants including the late designer Karl Lagerfeld.
Talley thought that shoes were the most significant part of a person’s outfit.
“What a person puts on his feet may tell you everything about him,” Talley told the Associated Press.
“If a man’s face can be seen reflected in the top of his black shoes, it implies they’ve been polished to perfection….” If it’s a lady, and she’s wearing painful shoes, well, painful shoes are extremely trendy!”