“Fashion lost another giant today” read the Met Gala statement. “André Leon Talley, thank you for your groundbreaking work that has inspired so many of us. Your legacy will live on forever. RIP.”
The fashion icon was born on October 16, 1948, in Washington, D.C. He said he learned an ‘understanding of luxury’ from his grandmother, which was foundational to his sense of style. He first discovered Vogue magazine at the age of 10.
Talley earned a master’s degree in French Literature from Brown. In 1974, he apprenticed for then-Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland at the Met. She recommended Talley for a job at Interview magazine which led him to Women’s Wear Daily. He became the publication’s Paris bureau chief from 1975 through 1980. He also worked for The New York Times before finally landing at Vogue. After over a decade there, Talley left Vogue in 1995 for a stint at W before returning to Vogue as editor-at-large until 2013.
Talley had an outsized influence in the fashion world. He was outspoken and often championed new voices. He advised the Obama family on fashion, including introducing Michelle Obama to the designer of her inaugural gown.
In a 2018, Washington Post essay about Beyoncé‘s Vogue cover, André Leon Talley reflected on his journey:
‘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.’
Since the announcement of his exit, tributes have kept pouring in.