Andre Leon Talley dies at 73: 'Gentleman, fashion editor, larger than life icon'

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Watch: How Andre Leon Talley left his mark on the fashion world

Former Vogue creative director Andre Leon Talley has died aged 73.

The “indomitable” fashion designer and journalist died on Tuesday in New York, TAA PR said in a statement.

During a career spanning five decades he befriended huge names in the fashion world including Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Paloma Picasso.

“It is with great sadness we announce the passing of our dear friend and client, the indomitable Andre Leon Talley on January 18, 2022 in New York,” TAA PR said.

“Mr. Talley was the larger-than-life, long time creative director at Vogue during its rise to dominance as the world’s fashion bible.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Andre Leon Talley attends
Andre Leon Talley attends "The Gospel According To Andre" premiere, 2018, in New York City. (Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival) (Roy Rochlin via Getty Images)

“Over the past five decades as an international icon, he was a close confidant of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso and he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers”.

As a fashion journalist, he worked at Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue and was a regular in the front row of fashion shows in New York and Europe.

His byline also appeared in other publications including Vanity Fair, HG and Interview, and he was the editor of Numero Russia.

In 2020, his bestselling memoir The Chiffon Trenches was published, in which Talley explored his life in fashion and his time working for Vogue.

He described himself as 'a fixture, a force, and and a fierce advocate of fashion and style.' He championed Black talent long before fashion editors, and said, 'for so long I was the only person of colour in the upper echelons of fashion journalism.'

Read more: André Leon Talley’s Memoir ‘In the Chiffon Trenches’ May Be Getting Ready for Prime Time

He wrote, 'whenever people ask me for advice I tell them two things: Never give up on your dreams and do your homework.'

Atlhough in his Seventies at the time of writing, Talley added, 'mentally, I feel like I'm past gives me strength.' Championed by iconic Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, his career spanned five decades in fashion and he knew everyone.

in 2020 he told The Guardian, "Manolo (Blahnik) will be in the kitchen cooking his wonderful cuisine, and I’ll be in the larder, lacquering my Louis Vuitton cases with yacht varnish, bringing them to a high shine."

NEW YORK, NY - 1979: Diana Ross and Andre Leon Talley dancing at Studio 54, c 1979 in New York City.  (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
Diana Ross and Andre Leon Talley dancing at Studio 54, c 1979 in New York City. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images) (Sonia Moskowitz via Getty Images)

Talley stood out at every fashion show - "a 6ft 7in African American in a sweeping kaftan" - and was Karl Lagerfeld's best friend. He fell out with longtime Vogue editor Anna Wintour in 2018 after she replaced his usual interviews on the Met Gala red carpet with a Youtube star, and he was merciless about her in the book.

Most sadly, Talley wrote in the book that he had been serially, and secretly abused as a child, and his journey into fashion was one of escape, explaining that finally he felt “at home” in a place where “there were no victims, only high octane egos.”

**FILE PHOTO** Andre Leon Talley Has Passed Away at 73. August 05, 2013 Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley attend the New York premiere of Weinstein Company Lee Daniel's The Butler at the Ziegfeld in New York City.Credit:RW/MediaPunch Inc /IPX
Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley attend the New York premiere of The Butler at the Ziegfeld in New York City. (Getty Images) (RW/MediaPunch/IPx)

Tributes to Talley have poured in from celebrities and his contemporaries in the fashion industry.

Actress and supermodel Milla Jovovich lamented the loss of a “force of nature” in her tribute and said she felt “lucky” to have encountered him multiple times in her career.

“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.

Read more: Andre Leon Talley Through the Years: A Red Carpet & Front Row Fixture

“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.

“I feel 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 and you’re much more likely to meet a scowl when going places than his ever present, all encompassing loveliness.

“I send you so much love Andre. It was an honor and a privilege”.

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 15: (L-R) Brandi Quinones, Andre Leon Talley and Claudia Schiffer attend A Versace fashion Show during Paris Fashion Week in the 1990s in Paris, France. (Photo by Foc Kan/WireImage)
Andre Leon Talley and Claudia Schifferat A Versace fashion Show during Paris Fashion Week in the 1990s. (PA) (Foc Kan via Getty Images)

Belgian designer Diane von Furstenberg said no one was “grander and more soulful”. Sharing a picture of him she wrote: “Good bye darling Andre.

“No one saw the world in a more glamorous way than you did…no one was grander and more soulful 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”.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08:  Diane von Furstenberg and Andre Leon Talley attend Tina Brown's publication party for
Diane von Furstenberg and Andre Leon Talley attend Tina Brown's publication party for "The Vanity Fair Diaries", 2017 in New York City. (Getty Images) (Sean Zanni via Getty Images)

US costume designer Arianne Phillips, known for her work on films including Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, said Talley was a “larger than life icon”.

She wrote on Instagram: “Andre Leon Talley trailblazer ,dapper gentleman , fashion editor, writer, journalist with a singular voice - his witty repartee, larger than life icon.

“Always so kind and funny, his contribution to fashion and culture is one for the history books . Such sad news to hear of his passing. Rest In Power Andre”.

Andre Leon Talley during Paris Fashion Week - Spring/Summer 2007 - Vivienne Westwood - Front Row at Caroussel du Louvre in Paris, France. (Photo by Toni Anne Barson Archive/WireImage)
Andre Leon Talley during Paris Fashion Week 2007. (PA) (Toni Anne Barson Archive via Getty Images)

US actresses Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer also posted online tributes to Talley.

Washington joked that the afterlife would be “just too fabulous” following Talley’s death.

"Oh Andre! Heaven is not ready for you darling!” she wrote on Instagram.

“The whole afterlife is going to be just too fabulous now. Ugh! You blessed us! Sir! You blessed us with your charm and wit and your taste for the exceptional.

“You will shine so brightly from the heavens that we will know what true stardom looks like."

“I am sad to hear of Andre Leon Talley’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones,” Spencer wrote on Twitter,

David simply said, “RIP Andre Leon Talley. Rest well, King.”

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Additional reporting by PA