Talley died in New York on Tuesday, his representatives announced in a statement. His loved ones confirmed the news in a post shared to his personal Instagram account.
“It is with great sadness we announce the passing of André Leon Talley on January 18, 2022 in New York,” they wrote, describing him as a figure who was “larger than life”, and who served as Vogue’s creative director at the point of its “rise to dominance as the world’s fashion bible”.
“Over the past five decades as an international icon 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,” it continued.
A number of notable figures within the fashion industry and beyond have taken to social media to pay their respects. “Goodbye darling André,” wrote designer and his longtime friend, Diane Von Furstenberg, on Instagram. “No one saw the world in a more glamorous way than you did. No one was grander and more soulful than you were. I have loved you and laughed with you for 45 years.”
Alongside an old picture of the pair, Marc Jacobs wrote: “I am in shock. You championed me and you have been my friend since my beginning. Our chats, the moments we shared….oh my friend. You and your passions were larger than life. I love you and I will miss you dear Andre. Rest In Peace.”
Playwright, Jeremy O’Harris, described Talley as a “beacon of grace and aspiration”: “For a little black gay boy who reached for the stars from the south there were few people I could look up to up there amongst the stars who looked like me just more fab except for you André.”
Talley — who became a formidable force within the fashion world for over half a century — was born in 1948 in North Carolina during the Jim Crow Era. In one of his two memoirs, The Chiffon Trenches, he recalled visiting his local library to read copies of Vogue.
Fashion, he wrote, came to represent a world in which “bad things never happened”. Later in life, Talley spoke candidly about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, as well as the overt racism and homophobia he endured throughout.
He chalked up his lack of romantic life to his troubled childhood — corroborating to The New York Times in 2018 that he “gave it all to my career”.
In the 2018 documentary, The Gospel According to André, Whoopi Goldberg described him as being “so many things he was not supposed to be” — a statement that rings true when you consder his illustrious legacy.
Talley entered fashion via an iternship for former Vogue editor, Diana Vreeland, who was so impressed that she introduced him to Andy Warhol’s Factory. He went onto be the receptionist at Interview Magazine, under the artist, and started writing for the likes of W and the New York Times.
However, it was at Vogue where he really cemented his legacy; becoming news director, then creative director up until his departure in 1995. Upon his return, three years later, he served as editor-at-large for 15 years, under Anna Wintour.
It wasn’t all high fashion for Talley, he could be mainstream too. He was a judge on America’s Next Top Model, he dressed former First Lady, Michelle Obama, and was a mentor to Naomi Campbell — who he infamously cast as Scarlett O’Hara for a Vanity Fair shoot that reimagined Gone With The Wind. Later in life, he became the artistic director of the online retailer Zappos, and acted as an advisor to musician Will.i.am’s tech startup.
“To my 12-year-old self, raised in the segregated South, the idea of a Black man playing any kind of role in this world seemed an impossibility,” he said when reflecting on his career in The Chiffon Trenches. “To think of where I’ve come from, where we’ve come from, in my lifetime, and where we are today, is amazing. And, yet, of course, we still have so far to go.”
Talley has no immediate survivors.