5 Things To Remember About André Leon Talley, Legendary Vogue Editor

5 Things To Remember About André Leon Talley, Legendary Vogue Editor


A driving force in Vogue’s success, André Leon Talley has passed away at 73 after suffering a heart attack. Here’s a look back on his legendary career.

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In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Vogue’s vision and the fashion industry as a whole were shaped with many voices, but one that stood out was André Leon Talley’s. Literally, he stood out as well as a towering 6’6 figure, often clad in lavish, flowing caftans. Talley covered the runways and red carpets with a deep knowledge of fashion, its people and its history. He had an eye for what was beautiful and what was current, discovering many of the biggest models and designers we know today. 

Talley earned a Master’s degree in French studies in 1972, with initial plans to become a French teacher. But he decided instead to head to New York for an unpaid job as an assistant to then Vogue editor Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. That was the beginning of André Leon Talley’s career in fashion, working with the likes of Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine and becoming a reporter at Women’s Wear Daily. He worked his way up the magazine ranks to eventually become Vogue’s creative director beside Anna Wintour as editor-in-chief. 

Transforming the industry to what it is today, here are 5 things to remember about André Leon Talley’s legendary career:

1. He is Vogue’s first-ever black Creative Director

Talley first joined Vogue in 1983 as the magazine’s fashion news director but quickly rose to creative director and editor-at-large alongside Anna Wintour before he departed from the magazine in 2013. 

In his 2020 memoir, he writes “I grew up in the segregated South. For so long, no one who had a position of prominence in the world of fashion magazines — in the world at large — was black, be they, man or woman. But in 1988, Anna Wintour started as Vogue’s editor in chief, and when she hired me, though I thought little of it at the time, I made history, too: I became the first African American man named creative director of one of the premier fashion magazines in the world.”

2. He has several high-profile friendships in the fashion and arts scene

With his undeniable style, vast knowledge, and witty yet honest critiques, Talley became a close confidant of the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, and many other legendary designers and was a massive supporter of the first runway collections of Rodarte, Sergio Hudson, and Zac Posen. 

And in the golden age of Manhattan nightlife, he was also often spotted at the top parties at Studio 54 during the late ’70s with Warhol, Vreeland, and other staples like designers Diane Von Furstenberg and Halston, and singers Diana Ross and Grace Jones.

3. He advocated for POC models

Talley attributed his eye for fashion to the churches he attended growing up with his grandmother, from who he learned the “luxury of fashion”. He was around the age of 9 when he first found a copy of Vogue at his local library.

When he finally reached his dream of working at the publication, the editor made sure to champion Black models by encouraging designers to feature them on the runway. 

“I always go back to roots of my grandmother, the Black church, the Black family tradition, Black reunions, Black dinners. I lean on my Blackness to give me strength to know that we as a people are strong,” he writes in his book.

4. He was the style advisor for the first family during Barack Obama’s presidency

Similar to how his mentor Diana Vreeland, advised First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Andre served as a style advisor to the Obama family in 2008. He was famous for introducing Michelle Obama to Taiwanese-Canadian designer Jason Wu, who eventually went on the design her inaugural gown. 

5. He wrote two memoirs about his life in the industry

Over his career, Talley also contributed to Women’s Wear Daily, The New York Times, and Interview Magazine. He also wrote two memoirs titled “A.L.T.: A Memoir” in 2003 and “The Chiffon Trenches” in 2020, where he opened up about how his time in fashion, sexual abuse, and how his race impacted his life, career, and friendships.

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