Ex-Vogue creative director Andre Leon Talley dies at 73

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Andre Leon Talley attends the official opening of the Costume Institute’s new Anna Wintour Costume Centre at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014, in New York. AFP

Influential fashion journalist Andre Leon Talley, the first Black creative director of Vogue, died on Tuesday in New York at the age of 73, with figures from fashion and entertainment paying tribute.

“It is with great sadness we announce the passing of Andre Leon Talley,” a statement posted on his official Instagram account said, without specifying the cause of death.

“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 and he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers.”

Born in Washington in 1948, Talley was largely raised by his grandmother in Durham, North Carolina and was interested in fashion from an early age.

“Every Sunday I would walk across the railroad tracks into the affluent part of Durham and buy Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and go back to my grandmother’s house, read my magazines.

“I was allowed to retreat from the bullying and the sexual abuse into a beautiful world,” he told The Guardian in a May 2020 interview.

Talley studied French at university, going on to earn a master’s at prestigious Brown University and then entered the world of fashion journalism.

After stints with Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, W, and a brief spell at The New York Times, Talley joined Vogue as fashion news director in 1983, the same year as its now editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

It was the start of a three-decade association with the fashion bible, serving as creative director, contributing editor and later editor-at-large until his departure in 2013.

“I scorched the Earth with my talent and I let my light shine,” he told The Guardian in his 2020 interview.

A beacon of grace

A flamboyant and towering figure in fashion, Talley nurtured Black designers and lobbied for more diversity on the runway.

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US fashion journalist, stylist, former creative director and US editor-at-large of Vogue magazine, Andre Leon Talley (centre) has died at 73. AFP

Besides his fashion journalism, Talley served as a judge on America’s Next Top Model and also appeared in episodes of Sex and The City and Empire.

He wrote three books, including his 2020 best-selling memoir The Chiffon Trenches in which he detailed his famous falling out with powerful Vogue chief Wintour.

Top figures from the worlds of fashion and entertainment paid tribute to him on social media.

“Goodbye darling Andre . . . no one saw the world in a more elegant and glamorous way than you did,” veteran designer von Furstenberg said on Instagram.

“No one was more soulful and grander than you were. The world will be less joyful. I have loved you and laughed with you for 45 years. I miss your loud screams . . . I love you soooo much,” she said.

“I am sad to hear of Andre Leon Talley’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones,” Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer tweeted.

Fellow Oscar-winner Viola Davis posted a photograph of herself and Tulley on Twitter, saying: “RIP Andre Leon Talley. Rest well King.”

Slave Play playwright Jeremy O Harris was also among those paying tribute.

“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 Andre,” Harris tweeted.

“For a generation of boys Andre Leon Talley was a beacon of grace and aspiration. RIP.”