Andrê Leon Talley, the former longtime creative director for Vogue and a fashion icon in his own right, has died at age 73, according to a statement on his official Instagram account.
Talley was a pioneer in the fashion industry, a Black man in an often insular world dominated by White men and women.
In 2017, at an event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Talley described the challenges of promoting diversity on the glossy pages of fashion magazines.
Talley was born in Washington DC but at two months old, his parents brought him to Durham, North Carolina, where he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Francis Davis, whom he called Mama.
A signature moment in his youth was the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and the presence of his glamorous wife Jackie Kennedy, describing her as the “first influencer” of the modern world.
“I was obsessed with her pillbox hat, and her little snippet of fur at the collar, and her fur-edged boots, as well as the muff she carried to keep her hands warm during the freezing-cold January day,” Talley wrote.
Talley arrived in New York in 1974, and found himself quickly at the frenzied intersection of fashion and art, working and mingling with the likes of Halston, Karl Lagerfeld and Andy Warhol.
After a stint in Paris with Women’s Wear Daily, Talley joined Vogue in 1983 as news director. He was promoted to creative director in 1988 and, except for a period with W magazine in Paris, remained a fixture at the magazine for nearly four decades, often seen sitting in the front row of elite fashion shows alongside editor Anne Wintour.
“To be in the august and impeccable body of Chevaliers: Diana Vreeland, Tina Turner, James Baldwin, Rudolph Nureyev and for a black man educated in public schools in Durham, North Carolina, I thank my French teacher, the late Cynthia P. Smith, who wrapped me in French: the language, the culture, style, history and literature,” he wrote.
Talley’s published work includes “A.L.T: A Memoir” as well as illustrated books including “Little Black Dress,” and “Oscar de la Renta, His Legendary World of Style.”
Last year, Talley touched on the significance of Vogue’s cover featuring poet Amanda Gorman to the Black community and wider fashion world, describing it “a first for so many levels.”