André Leon Talley Dies: Fashion Icon and Former Vogue Creative Director Was 73

Andre Leon Talley (Credit: Shutterstock)

André Leon Talley, a fashion trailblazer, diversity champion, and former creative director at Vogue magazine, died Tuesday. He was 73.

TMZ reported Talley passed away at a hospital in White Plains, New York. The website said it was unclear why he had been hospitalized.

An obituary posted on Talley’s verified Instagram account late Tuesday night looked back on his illustrious career.

“Mr. Talley was the larger-than-life, longtime creative director at Vogue during its rise to dominance as the world’s fashion bible. Over the past five decades as an international icon, he was a close confidant of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, Diane von Furstenberg, Bethann Hardison, Manolo Blahnik and he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers,” the obituary said.

The post added that Talley’s byline appeared in Vanity Fair, HG, Interview, Ebony, Women’s Wear Daily and other publications. He wrote several books on the fashion industry and was the subject of the 2018 documentary film The Gospel According to André from filmmaker Kate Novack.

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1948, Talley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Durham, North Carolina. His grandmother worked as a cleaning lady at Duke University, yet passed on an understanding of fashion and style to young André.

“All my relatives had style,” Talley said in the documentary film about his life. “In the South, going to church was the most important thing in life.”

Despite growing up in difficult circumstances, he graduated from North Carolina Central University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Literature in 1970. He won a scholarship to Brown University, and earned a Master of Arts degree in French Literature in 1972.

Early in his career, Talley worked at Andy Warhol’s Factory and Interview magazine. He would eventually land a job at Women’s Wear Daily, becoming its Paris bureau chief. He also worked at W, the New York Times and other publications before landing at Vogue.

He was known for championing diversity and pushed top designers to use more Black models in their runway shows.

Talley later teamed up with supermodel Tyra Banks and served as a judge on her fashion competition series America’s Next Top Model from Cycle 14 to Cycle 17.

In The Gospel According to André,  he talked about his legacy of advocating for change in the fashion industry.

“You don’t get up and say, ‘look, I’m Black and I’m proud.’ You just do it and somehow it impacts the culture,” he explained.

Talley was also considered an LGBTQ icon and in 2007 made Out magazine’s “Power 50” list.