André Leon Talley, a revolutionary Black editor and creative force within the fashion industry, has died at 73, according to the New York Times. An obituary published by Talley’s former employer Vogue Wednesday confirmed he died of a heart attack after a series of health struggles.
Known for his extravagant capes and towering stature, Talley, was widely recognized as a creative genius whose legacy within the fashion industry and beyond is nearly impossible to measure. Talley’s rise in the fashion world began with a job as the receptionist at Interview Magazine under Andy Warhol and he’d go on to become creative director— the first Black man to do so—and editor at large at Vogue under Anna Wintour. A regular in the front row during fashion week, Talley was closely-knit with the likes of well-dressed icons like Michelle Obama, Oscar de la Renta, and Naomi Campbell. In addition to being an author of memoirs like his 2003 work A.L.T.: A Memoir and 2020's The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, Talley rose to global prominence that transcended the fashion world when he became a television personality and judge on the reality television show “America’s Next Top Model.” He also made appearances on scripted shows like “Sex and the City” and “Empire.”
In Vogue’s statement about his passing, Anna Wintour wrote of her former colleague: “He was magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny—mercurial, too. Like many decades-long relationships, there were complicated moments, but all I want to remember today, all I care about, is the brilliant and compassionate man who was a generous and loving friend to me and to my family for many, many years, and who we will all miss so much.”
While Wintour’s missive to Talley was kindly worded, Talley’s well-documented contentious relationship with Vogue’s longtime editor in chief rose to the forefront of conversation in the wake of his death. Many on social media spotted that Vogue failed to pause some frivolous social media posts in Talley’s honor, criticizing the storied publication for not doing so and for delaying the posting of what should’ve been the first obituary to break (Vogue’s obituary published Wednesday morning).
Talley will be long remembered as a trailblazer in fashion who never shied from going the extra mile and who paved the way for young Black and queer people to see themselves in a predominantly white industry.