It would be impossible to overstate Talley’s importance to the fashion industry. A larger-than-life presence, he began his career under the equally iconic Diana Vreeland, working with her to put together the annual Costume Institute exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With Vreeland as a mentor, Talley went on to get a job with Andy Warhol, bouncing between his Factory and Interview magazine. Fashion took him to Paris, where he worked at WWD and W while also running in social circles with fellow industry giants like Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.
It was his job at Vogue, however, which would cement Talley’s status as something of an industry legend. He served as Creative Director and then Editor-at-Large, making him one of the first Black editors to reach the top of the masthead. His bon-mots-packed columns were such must-reads that they earned a shout out on “Sex and the City” (and, later, a cameo in the first film). A scene-stealing turn in “The September Issue” would turn the beloved Talley into a household name; he was the star subject of the 2018 documentary, “The Gospel According to André.”
Talley was not only a prolific fashion editor and writer, penning two memoirs (“A.L.T.: A Memoir” in 2003 and the more recent, headline-making “The Chiffon Trenches”) and several coffee table books, but also a critical power player across the industry for over four decades. In addition to his relationships with Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent, he counted many other titans in his circle of friends — Diane von Furstenberg, Manolo Blahnik, Oscar de la Renta, Naomi Campbell, Bethann Hardison and Carolina Herrera all orbited his star. He often played the role of fashion matchmaker, famously advising Michelle Obama early in her time as First Lady. Throughout his career, Talley helped launch and promote the careers of countless young designers, perhaps most notably John Galliano.
Talley was raised by his beloved grandmother in the Jim Crow South; much of his first memoir is dedicated to his most cherished memories of his time with her in North Carolina. After graduating from North Carolina Central University, he was awarded a scholarship to Brown University, where his time as a post-graduate student in French would lead to a move to New York City and build a legendary career in fashion. He remained a devoted member of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church and a tireless board member at SCAD University, where he helped to stage blockbuster exhibitions. His work was recognized by the French Republic, which awarded Talley with the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2020.
He will undoubtedly be very dearly missed.