(CNN) — André Leon Talley, a long-time former creative director of Vogue and a fashion icon in his own right, has died at the age of 73, according to a statement on his official Instagram account.
Talley 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, Talley outlined the challenges of promoting diversity on the pages of fashion magazines.
“I worked behind the scenes. I did it in sweet tones, and I was persistent and tenacious… I always assumed a very quiet role. I did not shout or raise my voice… That was the best strategy, because that was the world in which I moved. After all, it was Vogue, darling.” told host Tamron Hall.
The life of Andre Leon Talley
Talley was born in Washington, but at two months old, his parents took him to Durham, North Carolina, where he was raised by his grandmother, Bennie Francis Davis, whom he called Mom.
In his 2020 biography, “The Chiffon Trenches”, described his early joy in immersing himself in books at the Durham City Library. “My world turned to the glossy pages of Vogue, where I could read about Truman Capote’s legendary dance at the Plaza in honor of Katharine Graham,” she wrote.
A key moment of his youth was the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and the presence of his glamorous wife Jackie Kennedy, whom he described as the “first influencer” of the modern world.
“He was obsessed with his pillbox hat, the little piece of fur on his collar, his fur-trimmed boots, as well as the muff he wore to keep his hands warm on a frigid January day,” Talley wrote.
Talley arrived in New York in 1974 and quickly found himself at the frenetic intersection of fashion and art, working and mingling 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, except for a stint with W magazine in Paris, remained a fixture at the magazine for nearly four decades, often sitting front row at elite fashion shows alongside the Anne Wintour editor.
Talley also appeared as a judge on “America’s Next Top Model”; was the focus of the documentary “The Gospel According to André”, which was released in 2017, and received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award from the French government, in honor of his contribution to the fashion industry.
On April 22, 2021, he described the French recognition as the “best day of my life” in a post by Instagram.
“Being in the august and impeccable body of Chevaliers: Diana Vreeland, Tina Turner, James Baldwin, Rudolph Nureyev and being a black man educated in public schools in Durham, North Carolina, I thank my French teacher, the late Cynthia P. Smith, who enveloped me in French: the language, the culture, the style, the history and the literature,” he wrote.
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.”
He earned a master’s degree in French studies from Brown and served on the board of trustees of Savannah College of Art and Design for 20 years.
Last year, Talley spoke of the importance of the Vogue cover featuring poet Amanda Gorman to the black community and the fashion world in general, describing it as “a first on so many levels.”
“We keep climbing hills, hills of healing, hills of forgiveness, and climbing hills and mountains of overcoming all adversity, systemic racism, and inequity,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
CNN’s Chris Boyette contributed to this report.
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Fashion icon André Leon Talley dies at 73
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