André Leon Talley, the former creative director of Vogue and a fashion icon in his own right, has passed away at the age of 73, according to a statement on his official Instagram account.
Tully was a pioneer in the fashion industry, a black man in a world often dominated by white men and women.
In 2017, at an event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Tally described the challenges of promoting diversity on the glossy pages of fashion magazines.
Tully was born in Washington, D.C., but at two months old, his parents brought him to Durham, North Carolina, where he was raised by his grandmother, Benny Francis Davis, whom he named Mama.
A defining moment in his youth was the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and the presence of his glamorous wife, Jackie Kennedy, calling her “the number one influencer” in the modern world.
“I was obsessed with her pill hat, her little fur pick at the collar, and her faux-fur-breasted boots, as well as the hoodie she was carrying to keep her hands warm during a frigid January day,” Tally wrote.
Arriving in New York in 1974, Tully quickly finds himself at a frenzied crossroads between fashion and art, working and mixing with the likes of Halston, Karl Lagerfeld and Andy Warhol.
After a stint in Paris with Women’s Wear Daily, Talley joined Vogue in 1983 as News Director. He was promoted to creative director in 1988 and later worked as a traveling editor. Except for a stint with W magazine in Paris, he remained a fixture in Vogue for nearly four decades.
At 6-foot-6 and with a booming voice, Talley was a towering figure in every sense of the word. He was often seen sitting front row at couture catwalks alongside editor-in-chief Anne Wintour, and his influence on fashion has continued long after his departure from Vogue in 2013.
“To be in the perfect, flawless body of Chevalier: Diana Vreeland, Tina Turner, James Baldwin, Rudolph Nureyev, and for the sake of a black man who was educated in public schools in Durham, North Carolina, I thank my French teacher, the late Cynthia B. Smith who taught me French Language, culture, style, history, and literature.
Talley’s published work includes “ALT: A Memoir” as well as picture books including “Little Black Dress” and “Oscar de la Renta, His Legendary World of Style”.
Last year, Talley touched on the significance of the Vogue cover featuring poet Amanda Gorman to the black community and the broader fashion world, calling it a “first on many levels.”