Photos show fashion icon André Leon Talley's larger-than-life influence on the industry

Photos show fashion icon André Leon Talley's larger-than-life influence on the industry
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Diana Ross and André Leon Talley dancing at Studio 54, in 1979 in New York City.
Diana Ross and André Leon Talley dancing at Studio 54 in New York City in 1979.Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images
  • André Leon Talley, who died Tuesday, blazed trails for Black queer Americans in fashion journalism.

  • In the 1980s, Talley became the first Black man to be Vogue's creative director.

  • Talley's larger-than-life persona had a massive impact on the fashion industry.

André Leon Talley, who died on Tuesday, had a larger-than-life persona that was stamped all over the fashion industry.

Not only was he a trailblazer for Black queer Americans in fashion journalism — in the late 1980s he became the first African American man to be the creative director of Vogue — but his sarcastically candid demeanor captivated many.

In his 2020 memoir, "The Chiffon Trenches," Talley wrote about his rough upbringing, raised by his grandmother in Jim Crow-era North Carolina. He found ways to escape, including through trips to the public library in Durham — he would scan each page of Vogue and other fashion publications and absorb the latest designer collection releases.

After graduating from Brown University, Talley began his career working under Diana Vreeland, the acclaimed Vogue fashion editor.

Over his almost five-decade career he spent time at The New York Times, Women's Wear Daily, W Magazine, and Vogue before joining Numero Russia as its editor at large in 2013. For years he was the host of the Met Gala in New York City.

In his memoir, Talley depicted his longtime boss Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, as a businesswoman who was not necessarily steeped in the history of the fashion industry or understanding of the plight of marginalized communities. He explained how he communicated to his peers like Wintour and the designer Karl Lagerfeld about hiring more people of color in fashion.

"My way of approaching diversity in the world of fashion was to communicate with the power of suggestion," Talley wrote. "I would not go up to Karl Lagerfeld and say, 'Where are the black models on your runway?' Instead, if I didn't see a moment of diversity, I would sit next to him and recommend girls who were missing. 'What about Naomi Campbell, wouldn't she look great in that suit?'"

Talley advised the Obama family on fashion while they were in the White House, and he introduced Michelle Obama to Jason Wu, who designed her inaugural gown in 2009.

In 2018, Talley wrote a Washington Post column about the historic impact of Tyler Mitchell, the first Black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in its 125-year history, for its September 2018 issue featuring Beyoncé.

When Talley departed Vogue for the second time, in 2013, he told WWD that he and his Vogue colleagues "remain great friends." But Talley was said to have fallen out with Wintour in 2018 when he was dropped as the Met Gala's red-carpet host and was replaced by a YouTuber, Liza Koshy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Talley and Kristen McMenamy during fashion week in the 1990s
Talley and Kristen McMenamy in New York in the mid-1990s.Catherine McGann/Getty Images
Talley at the Met Gala in 2011.
Talley at the Met Gala in May 2011.Mike Segar/Reuters
Talley and Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour at the Zac Posen 2006 Spring show during Olympus Fashion Week.
Talley and Anna Wintour at a show during New York Fashion Week in September 2005.Thos Robinson/Getty Images
Talley and Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in 1999
Talley and Wintour at the Met Gala in 1999.Rose Hartman/Getty Images
Talley at The Costume Institute Gala in 2009.
Talley at the 2009 Met Gala.Chance Yeh/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Talley with Designer Jason Wu at Wu's fall show in 2009.
The designer Jason Wu talks with Talley backstage at a fashion show in February 2009.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Talley in 2010
Tally in New York City in February 2010.Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Talley with Naomi Campbell during Tanqueray Sterling Ball in 1989.
Talley and Naomi Campbell at the Sand Factory in New York in November 1989.Ron Galella, Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images
André Leon Talley attends the Alt 365+ book party in 2005
Talley at a fashion-week book party in New York in September 2005.Donald Bowers/Getty Images

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