André Leon Talley passed away on the night of January 18th, 2022 in White Plains, NY. Reported sources have revealed that the cause of death was from the effects of COVID and underlying health issues. This news shocked the fashion industry at large as Talley was one of the original fashion legends. He’s left behind an immeasurable legacy that has inspired and birthed generations of Black professionals in fashion.
Talley, who went from being a young man living in Durham, North Carolina to being a fashion editor who traveled the world and worked at the helm of Vogue, is the very reason many Black men and women chose to pursue a career in the industry. His educational background in French Literature prepared him to enter the world of fashion, where three of the four fashion capitals of the world are overseas including Paris, Milan, and London.
While he was present during some of fashion’s most memorable and historical times, he worked alongside Dianna Vreeland and at prominent publications such as Interview, W, WWD, and The New York Times. However, Talley wasn’t just a fly on the wall, he also made history himself by becoming the first Black person to work as a Senior Fashion Editor and Creative Director at Vogue.
Talley was one of a kind. His talent and skill was undeniable, and he was the closest thing to a living fashion encyclopedia. He earned his stripes and a seat at the table, and he pushed the bounds of old fashion traditions to open up the door for more Black models on the runway and for more Black stylists, writers, and designers. Although we’re still making strides with diversity and equality, the industry that now has several Black editors leading the charge at major fashion and beauty publications, partly stands where it is at today because of Talley’s efforts.
His personal style was the epitome of exuberance and fashion royalty. He was known for sporting and popularizing the iconic Norma Kamali sleeping bag coat, which he often mimicked the silhouette of with his custom long coats and robes designed by the finest, luxury fashion houses. His eye was truly special and he was a true fashion critic.
Any compliment from Talley was to be treasured for a lifetime, even for celebrities. In his days of covering the Met Gala red carpet for Vogue, while many sought his approval for their choice of attire of the night, he cheered on Black women attending the event like Rihanna and Janelle Monae, and reassured them of their fashion sense and that they deserved to take up space in the fashion industry.
It is undoubtedly quite difficult to capture all that Talley has built into his immeasurable legacy, but he leaves behind hope, an intimate glimpse of his journey in his memoir The Chiffon Trenches, and impact that will transcend time—may he Rest in Power.