Vogue’s former creative director and editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley has died aged 73.
The fashion journalist, whose career spanned five decades, died on Tuesday in New York, his representatives said.
A statement posted on his Instagram page confirmed his death “with great sadness” and described Talley as a “larger-than-life” figure.
Several fashion industry figures, including designers and models, have been paying tribute.
US designer Marc Jacobs said he was “in shock” over the news. “You championed me and you have been my friend since my beginning,” he posted online.
“You and your passions were larger than life.”
Belgian designer Diane von Furstenberg said no-one was “grander and more soulful”, adding: “The world will be less joyful.”
While actress and supermodel Milla Jovovich described Talley as a “force of nature”.
“Andre Leon Talley was such an incredible artist, but he was also one of the most genuinely wonderful humans I’ve ever met,” she said.
“Always there with the most beautiful smile and open arms, he was so sweet and kind, always so gracious and I imagine the term ‘fierce’ was coined after meeting him.”
She said she felt “so lucky to have been embraced in his warm glow so many times in my career, because good people are few and far between in this business”.
Born in Washington DC and raised by his grandmother in North Carolina, Talley studied French literature before becoming an apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1974.
He went on to work as a fashion journalist at Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue, attending regular fashion shows in New York and around Europe.
The kaftan-wearing journalist became creative director and editor-at-large at Vogue and was usually seen at events next to the magazine’s driving force and fashion’s most formidable woman, Anna Wintour.
gue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley and editor-in-chief Anna Wintour pictured at the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1999
In his time there, Talley became a close confidant of big name designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Paloma Picasso; and his representatives noted his “penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers”.
Talley also wrote for Vanity Fair, HG and Interview, and he was the editor of Numero Russia.
He also a major figure in the LGBT community, describing himself as “fluid”.
Talley was widely credited with getting more black models into the fashion industry.
He also served as a stylist for former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Last year, Talley was awarded France’s Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres honor – recognising people who have made significant contributions to the arts.
Andre Leon Talley and Naomi Campbell at a fashion show in Los Angeles in 1991
In 2020 he released his memoir, entitled The Chiffon Trenches, and told Hard Talk’s Stephen Sackur that the title was inspired by his time spent in a fashion industry that was almost devoid of senior black men.
“I have I fought many battles,” he told the BBC World Service. “I’ve been in trenches all my life, as an African-American black man, a descendant of the enslaved people who were brought to this country 401 years ago, my daily existence is an uphill battle of survival.
“Every black man has to wake up and realise that he is black in a country that promises him all the equality, equal justice for everyone… and it’s not.
“So therefore my life is a constant survival in the trenches: I get knocked down, I get up, I get shot down, I get up – not only in my personal life, but in my professional life as well as in my professional life when I was in Paris and in New York.”
Andre Leon Talley and Gayle King at Keep A Child Alive’s 10th Annual Black Ball in New York in 2013
Costume designer Arianne Phillips, who worked on films such as Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, said Talley was a “larger than life icon”. “Andre Leon Talley trailblazer, dapper gentleman, fashion editor, writer, journalist with a singular voice – his witty repartee, larger than life icon,” she wrote.
“Always so kind and funny, his contribution to fashion and culture is one for the history books.”
He declared on Instagram that “the whole afterlife is going to be just too fabulous now” with Talley up there. “You blessed us with your charm and wit and your taste for the exceptional,” she added.